Wednesday, February 26, 2020

USS Congress (1799)-- Part 5: Finished For the Quasi War with France

The Congress was given her name by George Washington  after a principle of the U.S. Constitution.  According to reports, her keel was laid down in 1795 at a shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (or close to it, Badger Island).

James Hackett was charged with her construction and Captain James Sever served as superintendent.  Construction proceeded slowly  and was completely suspended in 1796 when a peace treaty was signed with Algiers.  The Congress remained in shipyard, incomplete, until relations with France deteriorated in 1798 and the start of the Quasi War.

At the request of then-President John Adams, funds were approved 16 July to finish her construction.



The Naval Act of 1794 had rated the Congress as 36-gun frigates, but, because of their larger size, upped to 38-guns.  However, ships of this era  had no permanent batteries as do more recent warships.  The cannons were completely portable and often exchanged between ships and stations as needed.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

USS Congress-- Part 4: A Special Kind of Frigate

In 1785, Barbary pirates, mostly from Algiers in North Africa, began to seize American merchant ships in the Mediterranean.  In 1793 alone, eleven sere taken with their crews and cargoes held for ransom.    This caused the U.S. to pass the Naval Act of 1794. to provide funds for the construction of six frigates.  But in cost cutting, a clause was added that if a peace treaty was signed with Algiers that construction would be stopped.

Joshua Humphreys design was unusual for the time with a long keel and narrow beam and mounting heavy guns.The "ratings" or number of guns carried, was a bit of a misnomer as these frigates carried many different numbers of cannons.  The USS Congress was rated at 38 guns, but often carried as  many as 48.

The designs also gave these ships much heavier planking on their sides than was to be found on frigates at the time, meaning they could withstand broadsides better.  Humphreys design took into account that the U.S. Navy could not stand toe-to-toe with the European powers at the time, but could do well against other frigates.  They could, though, escape from the more powerful but slower ships of the line.


Monday, February 24, 2020

USS Congress Stats-- Part 3

From Wikipedia.

Namesake:  The United States Congress

Ordered 27 March 1794

Builder:  James Hackett

Cost:  $197,245

Laid Down:  1795

Launched:   15 August 1799

Maiden Voyage:  January 6, 1800


Type:  38-gun frigate

Displacement:  1,265 tons

Length:  164 feet

Beam:  41 feet

Depth of Hold:  13 feet

Decks:  4  (Orlop, Berth, Gun, Spar)

Propulsion:  Sail

Complement:  340 officers and enlisted



28  Eighteen Pounders and 12 Nine Pounders


24  Eighteen Pounders and 20 Thirty-Two Pounders (carronade)


Saturday, February 22, 2020

USS Congress (1799)-- Part 2: Action in First and second Barbary Wars, War of 1812 and Against West Indies Pirates

Her first duties with the U.S. Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi War with France and to defeat Barbary pirates during the First Barbary War.

During the War of 1812, she made several extended cruises in company with her sister ship, the USS President.  During those, the Congress captured or assisted in the capture of twenty British merchant ships.

At then end of 1813, because of lack of materials for repairs, the Congress was placed in ordinary for the remainder of the war.

In 1815, she returned to duty for service in the second Barbary War and made patrols through 1816.  In the 1820s, she helped suppress piracy in the West Indies and made several voyages to South America.

The Congress was also the first American ship to visit China.

The last ten years of her service were as a receiving ship until ordered broken up in 1834.

The next USS Congress, (1841) was a 52-gun frigate destroyed by the CSS Virginia in 1862.


Friday, February 21, 2020

The Super-Frigates of the U.S. Navy (or, the Original Six Frigates )


In case you're wondering about these six frigates built as per the Naval Act of 1794, of which the USS Congress was one, here is a list of them, along with site built, guns, naval contractor and Navy superintendent:

CHESAPEAKE:  Gosport, Virginia (Norfolk, Va.), 44 guns, Josiah Fox, Richard Dale

CONSTITUTION:  Boston, Massachusetts,  44 guns, George Claghorn, Samuel Nicholson

PRESIDENT:  New York, New York, 44 guns,  Christian Bergh, Silas Talbot

UNITED STATES:  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  44 guns, Joshua Humphreys,  John Barry

CONGRESS:  Portsmouth, New Hampshire,  36 guns, James Hackett,  James Sever

CONSTELLATION:  Baltimore, Maryland,  36,  David Stodder,  Thomas Truxton


USS Congress (1799)-- Part 1: Built at Badger's Island, Portsmouth, N.H.

From Wikipedia.

The USS Congress was a nominally rated 38-gun wooden hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the U.S. Navy.  Built by James Hackett in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Badger's Island.  She was launched 15 August 1799 and was one of the original six  frigates in the U.S. Navy authorized by the Naval Act of 1794.

The name Congress  was one of the ten names submitted to President George Washington by Secretary of War Timothy Pickering  in March 1795 for the six frigates to be constructed.

Joshua Humphreys, famed ship builder and naval contractor, designed these ships to be the young Navy's capital ships., so the Congress and her sister ships were designed  to be larger and more heavily armed than most frigates at the time (especially in the British fleet).  Essentially, they were Super-Frigates or, in the 20th century, heavy cruisers.

The USS Constitution was one of these six frigates.

A battle between them and a standard frigate would probably not go well for the regular frigate.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Other Ships Named USS Portsmouth in the U.S. Navy

From Wikipedia.

**  USS Portsmouth (1843)  Sloop of War commissioned in 1844.  Active in the Mexican War and the Civil War.  Decommissioned in 18778, but continued use as a training ship until 1915.  20 guns.  Built at Portsmouth Naval Yard.

**  USS Portsmouth (CL-102), a Cleveland class light cruiser in service 1945 to 1949.  Built at Newport News, Virginia.

**  USS Portsmouth (SSN-707)  A Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarine commissioned in 1983 and decommissioned in 2004.

Built in Groton, Connecticut, but commissioning took place 1 October 1983 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in Kittery, Maine, just east of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her namesake city.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

USS Portsmouth (1798)

From Wikipedia.

The USS Portsmouth was the first ship (of four) in the U.S. Navy with that name.  It was constructed in 1798 by master shipbuilder James Hackett to the design of Josiah Fox at what is now Badger's Island, in Kittery, Maine,  directly across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

She was built by funds contributed by the citizens of Portsmouth.  Quite a few ships built around that time were funded by private citizens.  It carried 24 guns.

Commanded by Captain Daniel McNeil, the Portsmouth operated in the West Indies during the Quasi War with France in the squadron commanded by Commodore John Barry.  In 1800, she sailed to France  to bring back the U.S. envoys who had concluded peace negotiations with France.

After a second cruise in the Caribbean, the Portsmouth was sold  less than three years later in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1801 because of the military cutbacks by the new Thomas Jefferson administration after the peace treaty with France was signed, ending the Quasi War.

So, the ship did not participate in the War of 1812.   But, many U.S. Navy officers did who went on to fame in the War of 1812.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine

I have been writing about this shipyard in Maine in my Tattooed On Your Soul: World War II blog.  During the 1900s, this place was very involved in the construction of submarines, but I also saw there were some ships with War of 1812 connections.

There were three American Revolution ships as well.

The USS Portsmouth, a 24-gun sloop of war was constructed with funds from the citizens of Portsmouth for use during the Quasi War with France in 1799 and sold in 1801.

The USS Congress was a 38-gun frigate was launched in 1799 and saw service in the Quasi War with France, First Barbary War, War of 1812, and Second Barbary War.  It was broken up in 1834.

The USS Washington was a 74-gun ship of the line launched in 1814.  Served until 1820 and broken up in 1843.


More David Rubenstein Donations

He has also spent millions on historical documents including copies of:

The Declaration of Independence

Emancipation Proclamation

Thirteenth Amendment (which abolished slavery)

In 2007, he spent $21.7 million  on a copy of the 13th century British human rights document the Magna Carta, which he then lent to the National Archives.

--Brock Perry

Saturday, February 15, 2020

David Rubenstein's Donations to American History

Continued from the previous post.

This man has been very nice to history.  Over the past two decades, his donations have included:

$50 million to the Reach Addition of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts

$20 million to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello plantation outside Charlottesville, Va.

$10 million to James Madison's Montpeleier Estate in Orange, Virginia

$10 million to George Washington's Mt. Vernon

$18.5 million to the Lincoln Memorial

$12.3 million to Robert E. Lee's Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery

$10.5 million to the Washington Monument

$5.4 million to the Renwick Gallery

$5.37 million to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

$5 million to the visitor center at the White House

$4.5 million to the National Zoo's panda reproduction program

$1 million  to Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument.

Again, a Big Thank You to Mr. Rubenstein.  --Brock-Perry

Thomas Jefferson, the Library of Congress and David Rubenstein

From the February 13, 2020, Washington Business Journal "The Library of Congress scores big donation from David Rubenstein" by Drew Hansen.

Billionaire David Rubenstein is committing $10 million  to the renovation of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

The project will ultimately cost $60 million and focus on enhancing the visitor experience at the library's flagship building and will include a new ground-level orientation center, a learning  lab and new exhibitions that will better tell the story of the Library of Congress.

A new orientation center will be built around the display of President Thomas Jefferson's personal trove of books which he sold to the library in 1815 to replace the collection destroyed by the British in 1814 when they burned it during the sack of Washington, D.C..

Jefferson's library totaled nearly 6,500 volumes and was purchased by the government for about $24,000.

Thanks, Mr. Rubenstein.  --Brock-Perry

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mary Todd Lincoln's Uncle, Samuel Briggs Todd

From Find A Grave.

Born:  15 May 1793, Lexington, Ky.

Died:  30 September 1876, aged 83

Buried:  Columbia Cemetery, Columbia, Missouri.

Veteran of War of 1812.    Wounded in battle.

This name was also given to one of Mary Todd Lincoln's half brothers.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Mary Todd Lincoln's Uncle, David Todd-- Part 2: Missouri and a Whig

In 1819, President James Monroe appointed him territorial circuit judge of northern Missouri.    When Boone County, Missouri, separated from Howard County, Todd was one of the citizens who purchased land on which Columbia was laid out in 1818-1819.

When Missouri became a state in 1821, Governor Alexander McNair appointed Todd  state circuit judge, a position he held until 1837.

In the summer of 1840, Mary Todd traveled to Columbia, Missouri, and visited with her uncle, David Todd.  While there, she became good friends with the judge's daughter, Ann.  This was also the year in which Mary became engaged to Abraham Lincoln.

He was an ardent Whig, serving as a delegate to the Whig National Convention that selected William Henry Harrison, Todd's commanding officer during the War of 1812,  for president in 1840.

In 1850, he was practicing law in Boone County and owned real estate valued at $3,500.


Mary Todd Lincoln's Uncle, Judge David Todd-- Part 1: War of 1812 Veteran and Lawyer

From Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois.


Born:  29 March 1786   Fayette County, Ky.

Died:  9 June 1859  Columbia, Missouri

Buried:   Columbia Cemetery, Columbia, Mo.

David Todd was the uncle of Mary Todd Lincoln and brother of Mary's father, Robert Smith Todd.

He attended Transylvania University, served in the military in the War of 1812, read law with Mr. George M. Bibb, earned admission to the Kentucky bar and served in the Kentucky legislature.

In 1817, he and his wife, Eliza, whom he married in 1810, and with whom he had ten children, moved to the frontier town of Franklin in Missouri Territory.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Dr. John Todd-- Part 3: From Kentucky to Springfield, Illinois

From The People Lincoln Knew site.

Mary Todd Lincoln's uncle and de facto patriarch of the Springfield, Illinois, Todds.  Robert Smith Todd, Mary's father, never moved to Springfield.

He was born in Lexington Kentucky in 1787 and received an excellent education, graduating from Transylvania College in Lexington and the Medical University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  he served in the War of 1812 as surgeon general of Kentucky troops  before returning to his Lexington, Ky., practice.

In 1813, he married Elizabeth Smith, age 20, .

In 1827, John Quincy Adams appointed him Register of the General Land Office in Springfield, Illinois.  He held that position until 1829, when he was removed for political reasons following the election of Andrew Jackson to president.  John Todd then practiced medicine in Springfield until his death at age 77 in 1865.


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Dr. John Todd-- Part 2: At The River Raisin

Brother of Robert Smith Todd (Mary Todd Lincoln's father, so he world be her uncle.)

From the River site.

Under Selected American Leaders page.

Dr. John Todd, born near Lexington, Kentucky, in 1787.  Was  surgeon of the 5th Kentucky Volunteer Regiment in 1812.  Stayed behind to take care of the wounded after the Battle of the River Raisin.

At the British hospital at Stony Creek  on January 23, 1813, he urged the British to return to French Town to rescue  the wounded who were being killed by the Indians, but to no avail.

After the war, Todd practiced medicine in Lexington, then moved to Illinois.  His niece, Mary Todd would become the wife of Abraham Lincoln.


Friday, February 7, 2020

Dr. John Todd-- Part 1: Brother of Robert Smith Todd

From Find-A-Grave.

Brother of John Smith Todd, uncle of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Graduate of Transylvania University and University of Pennsylvania. 

Took part in the War of 1812.    Acted as Surgeon General of Kentucky troops.

Was at the Battle of River Raisin where he was taken prisoner and later confined to  the "Pens of Malden."  Paroled in winter of 1813.

Returned to Kentucky where he continued his medical practice.

1817 moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, and 1827 to Springfield, Illinois.  Buried Oak Wood Cemetery in Springfield.


Robert Smith Todd-- Part 4: After the War

He was the father of Mary Todd Lincoln.

After the War of 1812, Robert ran a dry goods store with a partner.  Doing this, he made trips to New Orleans to buy French brandies, Dutch gin and green coffee, which they sold in Lexington.  He used these while entertaining friends at his home and he became acquainted with many prominent persons.

Later, he became a partner in a cotton manufacturing company near the Ohio River and by 1835 was serving as the president of  the Lexington branch of the Bank of Kentucky.  In 1827, he was appointed trustee of Transylvania University, alongside with Henry Clay and Charles A. Wickliffe.

Robert Todd was a close friend of John J. Crittenden and served as a justice of the peace and sheriff.  He spent  over twenty years as a clerk of the Kentucky House of Representatives in Frankfort and also served terms a a Kentucky representative and senator.

A Very Prominent and Successful Man.  --Brock-Perry

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Robert Smith Todd (Mary Lincoln's Father)-- Part 3: At Battles of Frenchtown and Thames

In July 1812, when the 5th Kentucky Regiment left Lexington, , it contained Robert , three of his brothers and eight Todd cousins.  Initially, Robert did not receive his commission, although his two older brothers did.

Along with his younger brother, Samuel, Robert enlisted as a private.  Before he could leave Ohio, however, he caught pneumonia and had to stay there to recover.

After recovering (and during which time he returned home to marry Eliza Parker), he went to the front of military action and  fought at the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan in January 1813 and later in the fall was at the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed and which ended fighting in that part of the war.

Before the end of the war, Robert was promoted to captain.