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William Lee

 

(Ship: t. 418)

 

William Lee—the last wooden-hulled whaling ship built at Newport, R.I.—was acquired by the Navy on 16 November 1861. Loaded with stones and initially earmarked for use as an obstruction at Savannah, Ga., William Lee made a final one-way voyage, southbound, soon thereafter, under Horace A. Lake, master. On the afternoon of 19 December 1861, 16 whalers—William Lee included—were ultimately positioned in a controlled checkerboard pattern across the entrance to Charleston, S.C., harbor and sunk in a planned pattern of destruction. As Herman Melville described their fate: "They sunk so slow, they died so hard, but, gurgling, dropped at last;" William Lee, regarded by one contemporary newspaper correspondent as having been a "fine old ship" was among those 16 ships that had sunk in their pre-arranged positions by the following day.