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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Walter Forward

 

Walter Forward—born on 24 January 1786 at Old Granby (now East Granby), Conn.—spent the first 14 years of his life at the place of his birth. In 1800, he moved with his family to a farm near Aurora, Ohio; but, after three years of farming with his father, he moved to Pittsburgh where he studied law in the office of Henry Baldwin, one of the best-known attorneys in Pennsylvania. Admitted to the bar in 1806, Forward quickly established his reputation as an able trial lawyer. He served for years in the Pennsylvania State Legislature and, after Baldwin resigned from Congress, Forward was chosen to serve the remainder of his term, took his seat in the House of Representatives on 2 December 1822, and served in that chamber until 3 March 1825. He then returned to the practice of law but remained active in both state and national politics. He played an important role in the establishment of the Whig Party in the 1830's and took a prominent part in the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention of 1837 and 1838.

 

As a reward for his part in William Henry Harrison's successful bid for the Presidency in 1840, Forward was offered the office of United States district attorney for western Pennsylvania. He declined that appointment but accepted one as Comptroller of the Treasury, taking office on 6 April 1841. He held that position only five months for, on 13 September, he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury in the cabinet shuffle which followed Harrison's death and John Tyler's succession to the Presidency. Since constant friction with the new President marred his entire tenure as Secretary of the Treasury, he left Tyler's cabinet on 28 February 1843, returned to Pittsburgh, and resumed the practice of law. On 8 November 1849, President Zachary Taylor appointed him charge d'affaires to Denmark, and Forward served in that office until 10 October 1851. Soon after his return to the United States, Forward took over the post of president judge of the district court of Allegheny County; and he served on the bench until his death on 24 November 1852.

 

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(RC: t. 150; a. 6 9-pdrs.)

 

Walter Forward—a schooner built in 1841 by William Easby at Washington, D.C., for service as a cutter in the Revenue Marine—was delivered to that service at Washington on 23 April 1842. Operating out of Baltimore, Md., she served with the Revenue Marine until 1846. On 16 May of that year, soon after hostilities broke out with Mexico, Walter Forward was ordered to sail to Philadelphia, make repairs there, and then to join the naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico as soon as possible. She set sail for the gulf on 23 May in company with another cutter, Ewing, and arrived at South West Pass of the Mississippi River on 19 June. There, General Zachary Taylor ordered the ship to blockade a stretch of the Mexican coast near Soto la Marina and capture any ships engaged in trade with the enemy. That and similar missions occupied her mid-summer. On 23 August, she received orders to report for duty with Commodore David Conner's naval squadron off Tampico. Four days later, she entered the anchorage at Anton Lizardo and began patrolling off Tampico. That assignment lasted until the middle of September, at which time she moved farther down the coast to join the blockade of Veracruz.

 

In mid-October, she joined a force commanded by Matthew Calbraith Perry. On the 15th, Perry's ships attempted to cross the bar at the mouth of the Alvarado River. The steamer Vixen led the way and succeeded in making her crossing, and Walter Forward followed, in tow of sister revenue cutter McLane. McLane grounded on the bar while the three ships she towed fouled each other's towlines. Vixen engaged the Mexican batteries on shore but, when it became apparent that McLane would never succeed in getting across the bar, she and her tows retired. Luckily, McLane came off the bar, and all American ships retired.

 

The next day, however, Walter Forward set sail for a similar, but far more successful, operation at the mouth of the Tabasco River on the Yucatan peninsula. Successfully navigating the bar on the 23d, the force quickly seized the town of Frontera and took several prizes in the process. Walter Forward and the other small steamers attached to Perry's force then continued the foray, sailing 74 miles up the river through hostile territory to the town of Tabasco. There, they seized additional enemy shipping—before returning to the ocean on the 26th. However, Walter Forward remained at Frontera until late November, engaged in the destruction of the captured Mexican shipping. She departed the area on 21 November and returned to the base at Anton Lizardo on the 23d.

 

In December, the revenue cutter left the Mexican coast to carry dispatches to Belize City in British Honduras. She returned to blockade duty on 7 February 1847 and took station off Veracruz once again on the 9th. She continued routine blockade operations at various points along the eastern coast of Mexico until April. On the 15th, she received orders to set sail for Wilmington, Del. Voyaging by way of New Orleans, La., she reached her destination on 23 May.

 

She underwent repairs during the summer of 1847 and, that fall, transferred to the cognizance of the Coast Survey. Walter Forward completed that duty in mid-December and resumed service with the Revenue Marine at Wilmington. She performed routine Revenue Marine duty for most of the remainder of her active career. During the Civil War, Walter Forward participated in troop transport convoys in the Chesapeake and took part in one small skirmish at the mouth of Wicomico River in Virginia. Her career ended soon after the end of that war. Her sale was ordered at Baltimore on 30 November 1865.