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Independence

 

Freedom of control by others; self-government.

 

II

 

(Ship-of-the-Line: 2,243 tons; length 190'10"; beam 54'7"; draft 24'4"; complement 790; armament ninety 32-pounder guns)

 

Independence, first ship-of-the-line commissioned in the U.S. Navy, launched 22 June 1814 in the Boston Navy Yard. She immediately took on guns and was stationed with frigate Constitution to protect the approaches to Boston Harbor and remained there until the end of the war with Britain.

Wearing the broad pennant of Commodore William Bainbridge, and under command of Captain William Crane, the warship led a squadron out from Boston on 3 July 1815, beginning her first overseas cruise. Proceeding to the Mediterranean, Independence was intended to reinforce the squadron then serving under Captain Stephen Decatur and engaged in preventing corsair attacks by the Barbary Powers against American merchant commerce.

 

Although Decatur had obtained a peace agreement before her arrival, Independence led an impressive show of force before the Barbary ports, encouraging them to keep the peace. With the weather turning rough later in the year, Independence returned to Newport 15 November 1815. She continued to wear the pennant of Commodore Bainbridge at Boston until 29 November 1819, then was flagship of Commodore John Shaw until placed in ordinary in 1822.

 

Independence remained in ordinary at Boston until 1836 when she was razeed or cut down to one covered fighting deck with poop and forecastle. She was rated down to 54 guns as her configuration gave way to that of a very large frigate. She proved to be one of the fastest and most powerful "frigates" of the Navy.

 

Independence recommissioned 26 March 1837 and sailed from Boston 20 May 1837 as flagship of Commodore John B. Nicholson. On board for her record passage across the Atlantic to England was the Honorable George Dallas, Minister to Russia. She arrived at Portsmouth, England, 13 June, called at Copenhagen; then proceeded into Cronstadt 29 July 1837 to receive a visit from the Emperor of Russia. Two days later a steamboat arrived to transport Mr. Dallas and his family to St. Petersburg.

 

Having received marked social courtesies from the Russian government, Independence departed Cronstadt 13 August 1837 for Rio de Janeiro, where she became flagship of the Brazil Squadron to guard American commerce along the eastern seaboard of South America. This duty continued into the spring of 1839 when Commodore Nicholson attempted mediation to end the war between France and Argentina. He reported 22 April 1839 that: "I volunteered, as I conceived it a duty I owed to my Country, as well as to all Neutrals, to endeavor to get peace restored that commerce should be allowed to take its usual course. In accordance of the feelings of humanity at least, I hope my endeavors will be approved by the Department... I see no probable termination of this War and Blockade which is so injurious to the Commerce of all Neutrals..."

 

Independence returned north to New York 30 March 1840. She was laid up in ordinary until 14 May 1842 when she became flagship of Commodore Charles Stewart in the Home Squadron. Basing at Boston and New York, she continued as his flagship until laid up in ordinary 3 December 1849. She recommissioned 4 August 1846 and the Nation was at war with Mexico as she departed Boston 29 August 1846 for the coast of California. She entered Monterey Bay 22 January 1847 and became the flagship of Commodore William B. Shubrick, commanding the Pacific Squadron.

 

Independence assisted in the blockade of the Mexican coast, capturing Mexican ship Correo and a launch 16 May 1847. She was present to support the capture of Guaymas 19 October and landed bluejackets and Marines to occupy Mazatlan 11 November 1847. She later cruised as far as Hawaii, arriving Honolulu 12 August 1848. Independence returned to the East Coast at Norfolk 23 May 1849 and decommissioned there 30 May.

 

Recommissioned 7 July 1849, Independence departed Norfolk 26 July under Captain Thomas A. Conover to serve as flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Charles W. Morgan. She was the first U.S. man-of-war to show the flag at Spezia, Italy, arriving 23 May 1850 for an enthusiastic welcome. She returned to Norfolk 25 June 1852 and was placed in ordinary at New York 3 July 1852.

 

Independence recommissioned 4 September 1854 and departed New York 10 October to serve as flagship of the Pacific Squadron under Commodore William Mervine. She arrived Valparaiso, Chile, 2 February 1855. Her cruising grounds ranged northward to San Francisco and west to Hawaii. Proceeding from Panama Bay, she entered the Mare Island Navy Yard 2 October 1857. She served as receiving ship there until decommissioned 3 November 1912. Her name was struck from the Navy List 3 September 1913.

 

Independence did not leave the Mare Island Navy Yard until 28 November 1914. Sold to John H. Kinder, she was towed to the Union Iron Works, San Francisco. On 5 March 1915 she shifted to Hunter's Point, and remained there for a week. Some repairs were made and a plan formulated to use her as a restaurant for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, though it never came to pass. Pig iron and ballast were later removed from her hold and valuable hard wood salvaged from her orlop deck knees. The night of 20 September 1919, Independence was burned on the Hunter's Point mud flats to recover her metal fittings. The sturdy veteran of the days of wooden ships and iron men had survived more than a century, 98 years of which were spent serving the U.S. Navy.

 

 

A painting of Independence after the Ship-of-the-Line was cut down to a razee.

 


22 June 2005