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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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History of USS Delaware

An Indian tribe, the first state in the Union, a bay, and a river.


I

(Frigate: Displacement 563; Length 119'; Beam 32'11"; Depth of hold 9'9"; Armament 22 12-pounder, 6 6-pounder)

The first Delaware, a frigate, was built under the 13 December 1775 order of the Continental Congress in the yard of Warwick Coates of Philadelphia, Pa., under the direction of the Marine Committee. Upon her launching in July 1776, Captain C. Alexander took command. Delaware served in the Delaware River, joining with Commodore J. Hazelwood's Pennsylvania state ships in operations which delayed the British Fleet in approaching Philadelphia and supplying the British Army. When the British took possession of Philadelphia 26 September 1777, Delaware in company with several smaller ships advanced upon the enemy fortifications which were being erected, and opened a destructive fire while anchored some 500 yards from shore. On 27 September she went aground on the ebb tide and came under the concentrated fire of the British artillery. After a brave defense against overwhelming odds, Captain Alexander was compelled to strike his colors. Delaware was taken into the Royal Navy until sold in March 1783.


II

(Ship: tonnage 321; length 94'9"; beam 28': dph. 14'; complement 180; armament 16 9-pounder, 4 6-pounder)

The second Delaware was built in 1794 as the merchant ship Hamburgh Packet in Philadelphia, Pa., and purchased by the Navy 5 May 1798. Captain S. Decatur, Sr., was appointed to command and outfit her for sea.

During the Quasi-War with France, Delaware cruised to protect American merchant shipping from French privateers. She guarded convoys during their approach to Philadelphia and New York, patrolled the West Indies, and escorted convoys into Havana. Her first prize, the privateer La Croyable, was taken off Great Egg Harbor 7 July 1798. From 14 July to 23 September, she cruised in the West Indies, often in company with the frigate United States, and together the ships took two privateers prize. During her second cruise in the West Indies, between 15 December 1798 and 20 May 1799, she took another prize, and won the thanks of the merchants of Havana for the protection she had given merchantmen sailing to that port.

Delaware's return to the West Indies from July 1799 to July 1800 found her joining the Revenue Cutter Eagle in taking a privateer sloop. She took a brig on 29 October, after a 7-hour chase, rescuing 30 Americans held prisoner in the privateer. She made a final cruise off Cuba in the late fall and winter of 1800-1801, then returned to Baltimore, where she was sold early in June 1801.


III

(Ship-of-the-Line: tonnage 2,633; length 196'3"; beam 54'4"; draft 26'2"; complement 820; armament 74 32-pounder carronade)

The third Delaware, a ship-of-the-line, was laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard in August 1817 and launched 21 October 1820. She was roofed over and kept at the yard in ordinary until on 27 March 1827 she was ordered repaired and fitted for sea. Delaware put to sea 10 February 1828 under the command of Captain J. Downs to become the flagship of Commodore W. I. M. Crane in the Mediterranean. Arriving at Algeciras Bay, Spain, 23 March, she served in the interests of American commerce and diplomacy in that area until returning to Norfolk 2 January 1830.

Delaware was decommissioned 10 February 1830, and lay in ordinary at Norfolk until 1833. Recommissioned 15 July 1833, she received President Jackson on board 29 July, firing a 24-gun salute at both his arrival and departure. The following day she set sail for the Mediterranean where she served as flagship for Commodore D. T. Patterson and cruised on goodwill visits and for the protection of the rights and property of American citizens until her return to Hampton Roads, 16 February 1836. She was placed in ordinary from 10 March 1836 until recommissioned 7 May 1841 for local operations from Norfolk.

Delaware sailed 1 November 1841 for a tour of duty on the Brazil Station as flagship for Commodore C. Morris. She patrolled the coasts of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina to represent American interests during political unrest in those countries. On 19 February 1843 she sailed from Rio de Janeiro for another cruise in the Mediterranean. Delaware returned to Hampton Roads 4 March 1844 and was decommissioned at Norfolk Navy Yard on the 22d. Still in ordinary there in 1861, she was burned 20 April along with other ships and the yard facilities to prevent their falling into Confederate hands.


IV

(Side Wheel Steamer: tonnage 357; length 161'; beam 27'; dph. 8'3"; draft 6'; speed 13 knots; complement 65; armament 4 32-pounder, 1 12-pounder muzzle loadin rifle)

The fourth Delaware, a side wheel steamer, was built in 1861 at Wilmington, Del.; purchased by the Navy 14 October 1861, Lieutenant S. P. Quackenbush in command.

Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Delaware sailed from Philadelphia 12 December 1861 and stood up the James River 26 December on patrol. On 12 January 1862 she sailed for Hatteras Inlet, N.C. Remaining on the North Carolina coast until 2 June, she took part in the capture of Roanoke Island on 7 and 8 February and Elizabeth City on 10 February, where she shared in the capture of five Confederate steamers and two schooners. She made a reconnaissance up Chowan River from 19 to 21 February, and on 13 and 14 March bombarded New Bern and captured four vessels.

Delaware arrived in Hampton Roads 2 June 1862 for service in Virginia waters until 30 October. She had several encounters with enemy batteries and captured a number of small craft which she sent in as prizes. She returned to operations in the rivers and sounds of North Carolina from October 1862 to February 1863 when she sailed with Valley City in tow, arriving at Hampton Roads on the 11th.

Until 5 April 1863 Delaware cruised in the James and York Rivers and Chesapeake Bay, then on the North Carolina coast until 27 November when she sailed to Baltimore for repairs. On 27 March 1864 she returned to the waters of Virginia, to patrol and perform picket duty, transport men and ordnance stores, and clear the rivers of torpedoes until the end of the war. Arriving at Washington Navy Yard 27 July 1865, Delaware was decommissioned there 5 August 1865 and sold on 12 September to the Treasury Department.


V

Piscataque (q.v.), a screw-steamer, was renamed Delaware 15 May 1869.


IV

(Battleship BB-28: displacement 20,380; length 518'9"; beam 85'3"; drapht 27'4"; speed 21 knots; complement 933; armament 10 12', 14 5', 2 21" torpedo tubes; class Delaware)

The sixth Delaware (BB-28) was launched 6 February 1909 by Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. A. P. Cahall, niece of the Governor of Delaware; and commissioned 4 April 1910, Captain C. A. Gove in command.

After visiting Wilmington, Del., from 3 to 9 October 1910, to receive a gift of a silver service from the state, Delaware sailed from Hampton Roads 1 November with the First Division, Atlantic Fleet, to visit Weymouth, England, and Cherbourg, France, and after battle practice at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, returned to Norfolk 18 January 1911. She departed 31 January to carry the remains of Chilean Minister Cruz to Valparaiso, sailing by way of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Punta Arenas, Chile. Returning to New York 5 May, she sailed 4 June for Portsmouth, England, where from 19 to 28 June she took part in the fleet review accompanying the coronation of King George V.

In her operations with the Fleet from 1912 to 1917, Delaware joined in exercises, drills, and torpedo practice at Rockport and Provincetown, Mass.; engaged in special experimental firing and target practice at Lynnhaven Roads; trained in Cuban waters participating in fleet exercises; and provided summer training for midshipmen. She passed before President Taft and the Secretary of the Navy in the Naval Review of 14 October 1912 and the next year visited Villefranche, France, while on a cruise with battleships Wyoming (BB-32) and Utah (BB-31). In 1914 and again in 1916 she cruised off Vera Cruz to protect American lives and property during the political disturbances in Mexico.

With the outbreak of World War I in Europe, Delaware returned to Hampton Roads from winter maneuvers in the Caribbean to train armed guard crews and engineers, as well as join in exercises to ready the Fleet for war. On 25 November 1917 she sailed from Lynnhaven Roads with Division 9, bound for Scapa Flow, Scotland. After battling bad weather in the North Atlantic, she joined the 6th Battle Squadron, British Grand Fleet 14 December for exercises to coordinate the operations of the Allied force.

The 6th Battle Squadron got underway 6 February 1918 with an escort of eight British destroyers to convoy a large group of merchant ships to Norway. Cruising off Stavanger 2 days later, Delaware was attacked twice by a submarine, but each time skillful handling enabled the battleship to evade the torpedoes. The squadron returned to its home base at Scapa Flow, 10 February. Delaware participated in two more convoy voyages in March and April, then sailed with the Grand Fleet on 24 April to reinforce the 2d Battle Cruiser Squadron which was on convoy duty and expected contact with the enemy. Only the vessels of the advance screen made any contact, and the chance for action faded.

From 30 June to 2 July 1918 the 6th Battle Squadron, with a division of British destroyers as escort, went to sea to screen American ships laying the North Sea mine barrage. On 22 July George V inspected the ships of the Grand Fleet at Rosyth, Scotland, and 8 days later, after being relieved by Arkansas (BB-33), Delaware sailed for Hampton Roads, arriving 12 August.

Delaware remained at York River until 12 November 1918, then sailed to Boston Navy Yard for an overhaul. On 11 March 1919 she joined the Fleet in Cuban waters for exercises. Returning to New York 14 April she continued to operate in division, squadron and fleet maneuvers, and participated in the Presidential Fleet Review at Hampton Roads 28 April 1921. She made two midshipmen practice cruises, one to Colon, Martinique, and other ports in the Caribbean, and to Halifax, Nova Scotia between 5 June and 31 August 1922; and a second to Europe, visiting Copenhagen, Greenock, Cadix, and Gibraltar between 9 July and 29 August 1928.

Delaware entered Norfolk Navy Yard 30 August 1923, and her crew was transferred to Colorado (BB-45), a newly commissioned battleship assigned to replace Delaware in the Fleet. Moving to Boston Navy Yard in September, she was stripped of warlike equipment and decommissioned 10 November 1928. Delaware was sold 5 February 1924 and scrapped in accordance with the Washington Treaty on the limitation of armaments.


SP-467 (later At-53 and YT-111) served in the Navy from 1917 to 1923. Although offically known as SP-467, she was erroneously listed under her merchant name, Delaware, on various occasions.


9 August 2001