Charles Stewart was born at Philadelphia, Pa., on 28 July 1778. He went to sea at the age of thirteen as a cabin boy and rose through the grades to become master of a merchantman. During the Quasi-War with France, Stewart was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Navy on 9 March 1798 and joined the frigate United States for a cruise in the West Indies. He took command of the schooner Experiment on 16 July 1800 and soon captured two armed French vessels and freed several captured American ships. After brief command of Chesapeake in 1801 and service in Constellation in 1802, Stewart sailed to the Mediterranean in command of the brig Siren. There he participated in the destruction of Philadelphia after her capture by Tripoli, helped to maintain the blockade of Tripoli, and distinguished himself in assaults on the enemy in August and September 1804. After the war, he participated in a show of force at Tunis and returned home as captain in 1806. On the outbreak of war in 1812, Stewart commanded, successively, Argus, Hornet, and Constellation. But, as the latter was closely blockaded in Norfolk, he took command of Constitution at Boston in 1813. He made two brilliant cruises in her between 1813 and 1815.
The frigate captured HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on 20 February 1815. Stewart's later service included command of a squadron in the Mediterranean from 1816 to 1820 and of one in the Pacific from 1820 to 1824. He served as a Naval Commissioner from 1830 to 1832 and commanded the Philadelphia Navy Yard from 1838 to 1841, in 1846, and again from 1854 to 1861. By a bill passed on 2 March 1859, Congress made Stewart “senior flag officer,” an office created for him in recognition of his distinguished and meritorious service. He became rear admiral on the retired list on 16 July 1862, and he died at Bordentown, N.J., on 6 November 1869.
(Destroyer No. 13: dp. 420; l. 245'; b. 23'1"; dr. 6'6"; s. 29.7 k.; cpl. 79; a. 2 3", 5 6-pdrs., 2 tt.; cl. Bainbridge)
The first Stewart (Destroyer No. 13) was laid down on 24 January 1900 at Morris Heights, N.Y., by the Gas Engine and Power Co.; launched on 10 May 1902; sponsored by Mrs. Paul Lee Cocke, granddaughter of Rear Admiral Stewart; and commissioned on 1 December 1902, Lt. Frederick A. Traut in command.
After commissioning, Stewart served for a short time at the Naval Academy and then joined the Coast Squadron of the North Atlantic Fleet. In 1906, she was placed in reserve at Norfolk but was recommissioned in 1907 in the Atlantic Fleet and transferred in 1908 to the Pacific Fleet. As one of the first group of destroyers built in the United States, Stewart quickly became obsolescent; and, on 24 February 1916, the Navy Department decided that destroyers numbered 1 through 16 were “no longer serviceable for duty with the fleet.” These ships were henceforth classed as “coast torpedo vessels,” but this did not prevent Stewart from having an active career in World War I.
After the United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917, Stewart patrolled first off the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal and along the Colombian coast; and then, after 11 May, off the Pacific entrance to the canal. On 5 July, she returned to the Atlantic, and was fitted out at the Philadelphia Navy Yard between 22 July and 11 August for distant service.
On 13 August, she sailed for Bermuda with a destroyer flotilla; but, on arrival on 16 August, shegrounded in the harbor and required repairs there and at Philadelphia which lasted through 10 October. On 11 October, Stewart began dispatch and escort duty from a base in the York River. Except for one interruption for training, this duty continued until 31 December 1917, when she entered the Philadelphia yard to fit out again for distant service.
Departing the yard on 15 January 1918, Stewart sailed the next day for Europe with four other destroyers. Stopping in the Azores from 29 January to 4 February, Stewart and Warden arrived at Brest, France, on the 9th and began convoy escort duty off that port on the 17th.
On 17 April 1918, as Stewart entered Quiberon Bay, an American steamer, Florence H, with a cargo of powder and steel, exploded in the anchorage. Stewart saved nine survivors, and her crew was cited by the Secretary of the Navy for gallantry during the rescue. On 23 April, Stewart sighted two seaplanes dropping bombs, apparently on a submarine; and she raced to the spot. One aircraft flew over the destroyer, and the observer pointed to the location of the sub. Stewart saw first the sub's wake, then its periscope, and finally the dark form of her hull underwater. She was forced to turn away at the last moment due to the effort of a French escort to ram the sub, but dropped two depth charges which brought up large amounts of oil. The action was evaluated at the time as a kill; but the submarine, U-108, survived to be damaged by Porter several days later and finally to surrender at Harwich at the end of the war.
During a dense fog three days later, Stewart was damaged when she collided with an unidentified merchantman, and she remained tinder repair until 28 May. On 4 August, the destroyer made another attack on an apparent submarine wake, but obtained no evidence of success.
After the armistice ending World War I was signed on 11 November 1918, Stewart ceased convoy duty; and she entered drydock at Brest on 26 November for repairs. On 9 December, she departed Brest with four other destroyers; and, after passing the convoy carrying President Wilson to Europe two days later and subsequently making stops at the Azores and Bermuda, the destroyers arrived at Philadelphia on 3 January 1919. Decommissioned on 9 July 1919, Stewart was struck from the Navy list on 15 September 1919 and sold on 3 January 1920 to Joseph G. Hintner Co., Philadelphia, for scrap.
The name Stewart was assigned to DD-216 on or about 23 September 1919, but was reassigned to DD-292 when DD-216 was renamed John D. Edwards (q.v.).
The name Stewart was assigned to DD-292 on or about 7 October 1919, but was reassigned to DD-291 when DD-292 was renamed Reid (q.v.).
The name Stewart was assigned to DD-291 on or about 9 October 1919, but was reassigned to DD-224 on or about 27 October 1919 at the request of the sponsor when DD-291 was renamed Converse (q.v.).