John Henry Upshur—born on 5 December 1823 in Northampton County, Va.—was appointed a midshipman on 4 November 1841 and initially served at sea with the Mediterranean Squadron. During the war with Mexico, Upshur was assigned to St. Mary's as that brig participated in operations against Tampico. He also served ashore with the naval battery during the attacks against Vera Cruz in March 1847. In the years preceding the Civil War, Upshur carried out assignments in the Mediterranean, the West Indian, and the African Squadrons. He also performed brief tours of duty at the Naval Academy and at the Washington Navy Yard as an ordnance officer. From 1853 to 1856, Upshur served in Supply during Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's expeditions to Japan which opened that nation to the west.
During the Civil War, Upshur participated in the capture of the Southern forts at Hatteras Inlet which opened the Carolina sounds to Union forces. He was executive officer of Wabash during the expedition which wrested Port Royal, S.C., from Confederate hands. Later on, he served in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron during operations against Charleston. He returned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron in time for the abortive joint expedition against Fort Fisher late in December 1864. He was also in the expedition which finally carried the Southern works guarding Wilmington in mid-January 1865.
After the Civil War, Upshur served in a succession of sea and shore billets, culminating in his service as commander of the Pacific Squadron from 1882 to 1884. Rear Admiral Upshur retired in 1885 and died in Washington, D.C., on 30 May 1917.
William Peterkin Upshur—born on 28 October 1881 in Richmond, Va.—graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and received a commission as second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps on 1 February 1904. Over the ensuing three and one-half decades, Upshur rose in rank and eventually became a major general on 1 October 1939.
After tours of sea duty in the Marine detachments of Maine (Battleship No. 10) and Kearsarge (Battleship No, 5), Upshur successively served ashore at Panama; the Marine Barracks at Norfolk, Va.; Port Royal, S.C.; and Mare Island, Calif., before being ordered to the transport Buffalo. Assignments with Marine detachments in the Philippine Islands and in China preceded his return home for duty at the Marine Barracks in Philadelphia, Pa.
During his next tour of duty—in Haiti—Upshur won the Medal of Honor. While his detachment of mounted marines forded a river in a deep ravine, they came under the fire of some 400 Haitian Caco bandits from an ambush. Leading his men forward through the heavy fusillade, Upshur succeeded in establishing a defensive position which protected his command for the night. At daybreak on the folowing day, 24 October 1915, Upshur led a fierce counterattack which caught the Cacos unawares and routed them. This action materially aided the marines in their eventual capture of the Haitian stronghold, Fort Dipitie.
Following his return to the continential United States, Upshur performed shore duty at Philadelphia; Annapolis, Md.; and Quantico, Va., before sailing for France in World War I. Following the war, he served in shore billets in repeat tours at Philadelphia, Quantico, and Haiti, before attending the Army Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1924 and 1925.
Serving in California (BB-44) on the staff of the Commander, Battle Force, United States Fleet, in 1929. Upshur attended the Naval War College in 1931; and served briefly at Headquarters, Marine Corps, in Washington, D.C., before attending the Army War College. In the late 1930's Upshur again served ashore at Headquarters, Marine Corps; and later commanded the Marine Corps Base at San Diego.
Upshur's last post was that of Commander, Headquarters of the Department of the Pacific, at San Diego—a billet which he filled on 9 December 1941. Major General Upshur subsequently died as a result of injuries suffered in a plane crash near Sitka, Alaska, on 21 July 1943.
The first Upshur (Destroyer No. 144) was named for Rear Admiral John Henry Upshur; and the second Upshur (T-AP-198) was named for Major General William Peterkin Upshur, USMC.
(T-AP-198: dp. 11,203 (f.) ; 1. 533'9"; b. 73'3"; dr. 27'1"; s. 19 k.; cpl. 216; tr. 2,500; cl. Barrett; T. P2-S1-DN3)
Passenger cargo liner President Hayes was laid down in 1949 under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 2916) at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., for the American President Lines. However, late in June 1950, before the ship could be completed in her civilian configuration, war broke out in Korea. The Navy acquired President Hayes on 15 September 1950, renamed the liner Upshur, and designated her T-AP-198 on 2 January 1951. Launched on 9 January 1951 and sponsored by Mrs. Charles Sawyer, the wife of President Truman's Secretary of Commerce, Upshur was converted by her builder to a troop and dependent transport and, on 20 December 1952 at Camden, was placed in service with the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS).
For the next two decades, Upshur operated out of New York providing service for troops and dependents on numerous transatlantic cruises to Bremerhayen, Germany; Mediterranean ports in North Africa, Turkey, Greece, and Italy; and Caribbean ports. She operated under the aegis of MSTS, Atlantic, until transferred to the Maritime Administration on 2 April 1973. Simultaneously retransferred on that day to the Maine Maritime Academy, the ship was renamed State of Maine and based at Castine.
Soon after beginning this service, the erstwhile troop transport got underway for a two-month training cruise to the Caribbean and to South America with cadets from the Maritime Academy embarked. In 1974, State of Maine cruised to northern Europe and visited Leningrad, Helsinki, Antwerp, and Glasgow. The cruise marked the first time in many years that an American training vessel had called at a Russian port.