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Wyandotte

 

A city in Wayne County, Michigan, on the Detroit Kiver, 11 miles southwest of Detroit, and a county in Kansas. Both are named for the Wyandotte Indians. The county was established on 29 January 1859 and was the location of the constitutional convention in July of that year which framed the antislavery constitution under which Kansas was admitted to the Union on 25 January 1861.

 

I

 

(ScStr: t. 464; s. 7 k.; a. 4 32-pdrs., 1 24-pdr. D. how.)

 

The first Wyandotte—a former merchant steamer built at Philadelphia in 1853 as Western Port—was chartered by the Navy Department in the autumn of 1858 to participate in an American naval expedition up the Parana River to Asuncion, Paraguay. After the vessel had been fitted out as a gunboat, she was commissioned under her original name on 27 October 1858, Comdr. Thomas T. Hunter in command.

 

Western Port soon sailed for South American waters and—at Montevideo, Uruguay—joined the task force commanded by Flag Officer William Branford Shubrick which had been assembled to support the negotiations of United States Commissioner to Paraguay, James Butler Bowlin. President Buchanan had appointed Bowlin to seek redress for the shelling of United States Steamer Water Witch in 1855 which had resulted in the death of the American ship's helmsman. Shubrick's fleet got underway from Montevideo on 30 December 1858 and ascended the Rio de la Plata and the Parana and the Paraguay Rivers. It arrived off Asuncion on 25 January 1859, and Bowlin went ashore to conduct negotiations which succeeded in winning an apology for the United States and a large indemnity for survivors of the dead helmsman. Bowling: also signed a new commercial treaty between the United States and Paraguay.

 

After the conclusion of the negotiations, Western Port returned to the United States and was decommissioned on 28 May 1859. She was purchased by the Navy Department on 6 June 1859 and renamed Wyandotte.

 

After repairs, Wyandotte was recommissioned on 19 September 1859 and assigned to the home squadron. She spent much of the next year cruising—for the most part in the Caribbean—in an effort to suppress the slave trade. On 9 May 1860, she captured the barque William—a slave ship carrying 570 Africans at the time of her capture—off the Isle of Pines near the south coast of Cuba. She took her prize to Florida and arrived at Key West on the 12th. The ship landed the Blacks on the 16th, turned the prize over to a United States marshall on the 22d, and soon resumed her cruising.

 

During the first weeks of the secession in the mid-and late autumn of I860, Wyandotte guarded and reprovisioned Federal military installations along the gulf coast. On 16 November 1860, she was ordered to protect Fort Taylor, Key West, Fla., while Mohawk watched Fort Jefferson. These actions saved Key West for the Union, permitting its wartime use as the home port of the Gulf Blockading Squadron.

 

In mid-December, Wyandotte sailed for Pensacola and entered the dry dock in the navy yard there to have her fouled bottom scraped and to receive minor repairs. She was refloated on 9 January 1861 and refused to surrender when Confederate forces took over the Pensacola Navy Yard three days later. Instead, she towed Supply out to sea.

 

Wyandotte remained in Pensacola Bay performing valuable observation and communication duty. She transported troops from Fort Barrancas, Fla., to Fort Pickens on 10 February 1861 and regularly patrolled the inner shore of Santa Rosa Island to prevent Confederate soldiers from attacking Fort Pickens by land. The vessel took part in the daring nighttime reinforcement of Fort Pickens on 12 April 1861, the day of the firing upon Fort Sumter, S.C. With the outbreak of hostilities, Wyandotte joined the Gulf Blockading Squadron on 17 May 1861. After carrying out patrol and transport assignments, she proceeded to the New York Navy Yard for major repairs on 23 August 1861.

 

On 5 December 1861, Wyandotte departed New York, bound for Port Royal, S.C., and duty with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. There, she was dispatched to Tybee Island, Ga., for reconnaissance work on 19 December 1861 and then was transferred to the blockade off Wassaw Sound, Ga., on 23 February 1862. Wyandotte returned to Port Royal in late April 1862 and proceeded to the blockade off Mosquito Inlet, Fla., on 12 May 1862. She returned to Port Royal in July, sailing to New York a second time for extensive repairs on 25 July 1862.

 

Wyandotte left the navy yard on 1 September 1862 for duty in the Potomac River with the Potomac Flotilla. She was reassigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Hampton Roads on 7 October 1862, deploying off Fort Monroe, Va., as a guard vessel. On detail, Wyandotte salvaged valuable supplies from the schooner Marie Banks, wrecked off Cape Henry light, Va., on 10 February 1863. She was repaired at the Norfolk Navy Yard and got underway again on 11 April 1863 to resume blockade duty. However, badly strained, the vessel could no longer withstand rolling seas and was condemned as fit for guard duty only on 3 October 1863. She spent the remainder of the war off Norfolk.

 

Wyandotte was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 3 June 1865 and was sold at auction there on 12 July 1865. She was redocumented for merchant service on 23 September 1865 but was stranded when she ran aground off Duxbury, Mass., on 26 January 1866 and damaged beyond economical repair.