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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Princeton

 

A borough in west central New Jersey, scene of a famous Revolutionary War battle 2–3 January 1777 and birthplace of Capt. R. F. Stockton.

 

I

 

(ScStr: dp. 954; l. 164’; b. 30’6”; dr. 17’; s. 7 k.; cpl. 166; a. 2 12” Sg., 12 42-pdr. car.)

 

The first Princeton was laid down 20 October 1842 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard under the supervision of Capt. Robert F. Stockton; launched 5 September 1843; and ordered commissioned 9 September 1843, Capt. Robert F. Stockton in command.

 

Princeton was the first screw steam warship of the U.S. Navy. Her two vibrating lever engines were built by Merrick & Towne, Philadelphia, Pa. and her three tubular iron boilers were designed by John Ericsson. The latter burned hard coal and drove a six-bladed screw 14’ in diameter.

 

Princeton made a trial trip in the Delaware River 12 October 1843. She departed Philadelphia 17 October for a sea trial, proceeded to New York where she engaged in a speed contest with the British steamer Great Western and returned to Philadelphia 20 October to finish outfitting. On 22 November Captain Stockton reported “Princeton will be ready for sea in a week”; 28 November he dressed ship and received visitors on board for inspection. On 30 November she towed Raritan down the Delaware and later returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Princeton sailed I January 1844 for New York where she received her two big guns named “Peacemaker” and “Oregon”. The former was made by Hogg and Delamater, New York, N.Y. under the direction of Capt. Stockton, who got the idea for it while in England. It was heavily reenforced at the breech, weighed more than 27,000 pounds and was considered to be an improved version of the “Oregon.” The latter was designed by John Ericsson and was similar in most respects to the “Peacemaker.”

 

Princeton was sent to Washington, D.C. in late January 1844, arriving 13 February. Washingtonians displayed great interest in the ship and her guns. She made trial trips with passengers on board down the Potomac River 16, 18 and 20 February, during which the “Peacemaker” was fired several times. On the 29th, she departed Alexandria, Va. on a pleasure and trial trip down the Potomac with President Tyler, his Cabinet and approximately two hundred guests on board. Against the better judgement of Captain Stockton, the Secretary of the Navy, desiring to please the distinguished company, allowed the “Peacemaker” to be fired. The gun burst, killing Hon. Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of State; Thomas Gilmer, Secretary of the Navy; Capt. Beverly Kennon, Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment and Repairs; Rep. Virgil Maxey of Maryland; Rep. David Gardiner of New York; and a servant of the President. It also injured about twenty people, including Captain Stockton, whose judgement was proven correct, for the gun was overheated from previous use that day. A Court of Inquiry exonerated Capt. Stockton, his officers and crew of all blame in the matter.

 

Princeton was employed with the Home Squadron from 1845 to 1847. She later served in the Mediterranean from 17 August 1847 to 24 June 1849. Upon her return from Europe she was surveyed and condemned to be broken up at the Boston Navy Yard 17 July 1849.