USS Wyandotte (1853) was a steamer acquired by the Navy as a gunship for the Paraguay expedition in 1858. When the crisis of the American Civil War occurred, she was recommissioned for service in support of the Union Navy blockade of Confederate waterways.
Chartered by the Navy for the Paraguay expedition of 1858
Wyandotte -- a former merchant steamer built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1853 as Western Port -- was chartered by the Navy Department in the autumn of 1858 to participate in an American naval expedition up the Parana River to Asuncion, Paraguay. After the vessel had been fitted out as a gunboat, she was commissioned under her original name on 27 October 1858, Comdr. Thomas T. Hunter in command.
The conflict with Paraguay
soon sailed for South American
waters and -- at Montevideo, Uruguay
-- joined the task force commanded by Flag Officer William Branford Shubrick which had been assembled to support the negotiations of United States Commissioner to Paraguay
, James Butler Bowlin. President James Buchanan
had appointed Bowlin to seek redress for the shelling of United States Steamer Water Witch
in 1855 which had resulted in the death of the American ship's helmsman
Western Port arrives in Paraguay as a show of force
The Paraguay expedition got underway from Montevideo on 30 December 1858 and ascended the Rio de la Plata and the Parana River and the Paraguay River. She arrived off Asuncion, Paraguay, on 25 January 1859, and Bowlin went ashore to conduct negotiations which succeeded in winning an apology for the United States and a large indemnity for survivors of the dead helmsman. Bowling also signed a new commercial treaty between the United States and Paraguay.
Return to U.S.A. after successful negotiations
After the conclusion of the negotiations, Western Port
returned to the United States and was decommissioned on 28 May 1859
. She was purchased by the Navy Department on 6 June 1859
and renamed Wyandotte
Recommissioned as USS Wyandotte
After repairs, Wyandotte
was recommissioned on 19 September 1859
and assigned to the home squadron. She spent much of the next year cruising—for the most part in the Caribbean
-- in an effort to suppress the slave trade
Wyandotte captures William, a slave ship with 570 Africans on board
On 9 May 1860, she captured the barque William -- a slave ship carrying 570 Africans at the time of her capture -- off the Isle of Pines near the south coast of Cuba. She took her prize to Florida and arrived at Key West, Florida, on the 12th. The ship landed the Blacks on the 16th, turned the prize over to a United States Marshall on the 22d, and soon resumed her cruising.
Wyandotte helps capture Key West for the Union at the start of Civil War
During the first weeks of the secession in the mid-and late autumn of 1860
guarded and reprovisioned Federal military installations along the gulf
coast. On 16 November 1860
, she was ordered to protect Fort Taylor
, Key West, Florida
, while Mohawk
watched Fort Jefferson
. These actions saved Key West for the Union, permitting its wartime use as the home port of the Gulf Blockading Squadron
Wyandotte refuses to surrender at Pensacola, and escapes
In mid-December, Wyandotte
sailed for Pensacola, Florida
, and entered the dry dock in the navy yard there to have her fouled bottom scraped and to receive minor repairs. She was refloated on 9 January 1861
and refused to surrender when Confederate forces took over the Pensacola Navy Yard
three days later. Instead, she towed Supply
out to sea.
remained in Pensacola Bay
performing valuable observation and communication duty. She transported troops from Fort Barrancas
, to Fort Pickens
on 10 February 1861
and regularly patrolled the inner shore of Santa Rosa Island, Florida
, to prevent Confederate soldiers from attacking Fort Pickens by land.
Supporting the reinforcement of Fort Pickens
The vessel took part in the daring nighttime reinforcement of Fort Pickens on 12 April 1861, the day of the firing upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina. With the outbreak of hostilities, Wyandotte joined the Gulf Blockading Squadron on 17 May 1861. After carrying out patrol and transport assignments, she proceeded to the New York Navy Yard for major repairs on 23 August 1861.
Assigned to the South Atlantic Blockade
On 5 December 1861
departed New York City
, bound for Port Royal, South Carolina
, and duty with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
. There, she was dispatched to Tybee Island, Georgia
, for reconnaissance
work on 19 December 1861
and then was transferred to the blockade off Wassaw Sound, Georgia
, on 23 February 1862
returned to Port Royal in late April 1862
and proceeded to the blockade off Mosquito Inlet, Florida
, on 12 May 1862
. She returned to Port Royal in July, sailing to New York City
a second time for extensive repairs on 25 July 1862
Reassigned to the North Atlantic Blockade
left the navy yard on 1 September 1862
for duty in the Potomac River
with the Potomac Flotilla
. She was reassigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron
at Hampton Roads, Virginia
, on 7 October 1862
, deploying off Fort Monroe
, as a guard vessel
On detail, Wyandotte salvaged valuable supplies from the schooner Marie Banks, wrecked off Cape Henry Light, Virginia, on 10 February 1863. She was repaired at the Norfolk Navy Yard and got underway again on 11 April 1863 to resume blockade duty.
However, badly strained, the vessel could no longer withstand rolling seas and was condemned as fit for guard duty only on 3 October 1863. She spent the remainder of the war off Norfolk, Virginia.
Post-war decommissioning, sale and subsequent career
was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard
on 3 June 1865
and was sold at auction there on 12 July 1865
. She was redocumented for merchant service on 23 September 1865
but was stranded when she ran aground off Duxbury, Massachusetts
, on 26 January 1866
and damaged beyond economical repair.