(Torpedo Boat No. 27: dp. 165; l. 175'0"; b. 17'8"; dr. 6'; s. 26 k.; cpl. 32; a. 3 1 pdrs., 3 18" tt.; cl. Blakely)
Johnston Blakeley, born in 1781 in Seaford, County Down, Ireland, came to America with his parents at the age of two. Soon after his family settled in Charleston, S.C., Blakeley's mother and brother died; and his father took young Johnston to live in Wilmington, N.C. At nine years of age, Blakeley was sent north to New York under the care of his father's old friend, a merchant named Hoope. In 1796, he returned to North Carolina to begin study at the newly established University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon his father's death in 1797, Blakeley inherited rental properties which gave him sufficient income to continue his education, but that came to an abrupt halt in 1799 when the uninsured buildings burned down.
The following year, Blakeley succeeded in acquiring a midshipman's warrant, and his first sea duty came in the frigate President under the command of Capt. Richard Dale. In 1801 and 1802, his ship made an uneventful cruise to the Mediterranean Sea to keep an eye on the Barbary pirates. Upon his return to the United States, he was reassigned to the frigate John Adams, that sailed for the Mediterranean on 22 October 1803. During that deployment, Blakeley saw action off Tripoli when the frigate bombarded the forts and shipping in the harbor. However, the most notable event of the cruise proved to be the destruction of the 20 gun Tripolitan cruiser Meshouda. Blakeley returned to the United States in John Adams in the fall of 1803 and was reassigned to the frigate Congress. However, he soon returned to John Adams when that frigate had to return to the Mediterranean to replace the lost Philadelphia. His ship arrived off Tripoli on 7 August 1804 and participated in the second series of engagements carried out against the pirate lair during the summer of 1804. Blakeley transferred to Congress during the fall of 1804 and served in that frigate until she returned to the United States in the summer of 1805.
Successive assignments in Hornet, at the Norfolk Navy Yard as officer in charge of a group of gunboats enforcing Jefferson's embargo in the Chesapeake Bay, and in Essex occupied his time between 1805 and 1811. On 10 February 1807, while he was at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Blakeley received his commission as a lieutenant. In 1811, he was given his first command, Enterprise. When war with Great Britain came in June 1812, he cruised along the east coast of the United States during the first year of the conflict. Initially unsuccessful in his attempts to take British prizes, his luck improved later in the cruise when he concentrated on the waters along the New England coast.
In July 1813, he received a promotion to master commandant and was offered command of the newly constructed, 22 gun sloop of war Wasp. Blakeley hastened to Newburyport, Mass., to complete outfitting his new command and put her into commission early in 1814. Getting underway on 1 May, he captured several merchantmen in the western approaches to the British Isles before encountering his first enemy warship on 28 June. On that day at a point some 225 miles west of Plymouth, England, Wasp fell in with the 21 gun sloop of war HMS Reindeer. The contest lasted a mere 19 minutes; yet, during that short span, the two ships exchanged severe cannonades of grape and solid shot. Blakeley’s crewmen repulsed several boarding attempts and finally carried the enemy warship by one of their own. Reindeer was destroyed by fire; and Blakeley, after repairs at L'Orient, France, resumed his guerre de course on British seaborne trade.
He took three more prizes late in August before meeting HMS Avon, an 18-gun brig, in the evening of 21 September. After maneuvering Wasp into a position in which he had Avon under his lee bow, Blakeley opened fire at about 2130. The British ship returned fire for about 30 minutes then appeared to cease fire. At that point, Blakeley halted his gunners and demanded Avon's surrender; but the enemy responded by resuming fire. Wasp did the same. After several broadsides, Avon's battery once more fell silent. Blakeley repeated the call to surrender, and the battered hulk had no choice but to comply. At that point, the appearance of three more British ships forced Blakeley to abandon his prize and make good his escape. Unknown to the Americans, Avon later sank. Wasp then resumed the war on British merchant shipping. He made three more known captures, the last of which was the eight-gun brig Atalanta that he sent into Charleston, S.C. The last contact with Blakeley and his command occurred on 8 October when he spoke the Swedish brig Adonis off the Azores. Apparently, Wasp went down with all hands in an Atlantic storm. Johnston Blakeley was awarded the thanks of Congress, a gold medal, and a promotion to captain--all posthumously--for his last cruise. In addition, the state of South Carolina voted him a sword and delivered it to his widow.
Charles Adams Blakely, the great grandnephew of Capt. Johnston Blakeley, was born on 1 October 1879 at Williamsburg, Ky. He graduated from Williamsburg Academy in 1897 and, in the summer of 1898, served with the 2d Kentucky Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War. Appointed a naval cadet in September 1899, Blakely graduated from the Naval Academy on 2 February 1903 and, after serving two years at sea as a passed naval cadet, was commissioned ensign in 1905 to date from 3 February. Between 1903 and 1907, he served successively in Santee, Baltimore (Cruiser No. 3l, Cleveland (Cruiser No. 19), Denver (Cruiser No. 14), and Mayflower. Command of Thornton (Torpedo Boat No. 33) and Macdonough (Torpedo-boat Destroyer No. 9) followed. In December 1910, he became officer in charge of the machinist school at the Charleston Navy Yard. Between June 1911 and October 1914, Blakely commanded the Reserve Torpedo Flotillas and the protected cruiser Atlanta. From October 1914 to September 1916, he served ashore at the New York Navy Yard. At the end of that assignment, he assumed command of Rowan (Destroyer No. 64) During World War I, Blakely commanded O'Brien (Destroyer No. 51), serving in the waters surrounding the British Isles.
At the end of the war, he went to Washington where he served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. In December 1920, Blakely became the engineering officer on the staff of the Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Atlantic Fleet. He concluded that assignment in October 1922 and moved to duty as inspector of ordnance at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Lake Denmark, N.J. In 1925, he began a year as executive officer of Texas (BB-35). Leaving that billet in August 1926, Blakely embarked upon a two-year tour of duty commanding the Destroyer Squadron, Asiatic Fleet. In July 1928, he returned to the United States to take up duty in the Bureau of Navigation as president of the Naval Reserve Inspection Board.
Blakely remained at the Bureau of Navigation for more than three years. He was relieved in December 1931 and, in January 1932, reported for duty at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., as a student. Upon completion of the observer course in May 1932, he was designated an aviation observer. During that same month, Blakely assumed command of the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV 2), a unit of Battle Force based on the west coast. In June 1934, he relinquished command of the aircraft carrier and proceeded to Newport, R.I., where he spent the next 12 months completing the senior course at the Naval War College. Blakely returned to Pensacola in June 1935 to take additional flight training. On 10 March 1936, at the age of 54, he received his designation as a naval aviator. Two months later, he became commanding officer of the Pensacola facility.
Rear Admiral Blakely was detached from duty at Pensacola late in the summer of 1937. In August of that year, he became Commander, Carrier Division (CarDiv) 2, and presided over that organization until the end of the year, ultimately flying his flag in Yorktown (CV-5). In January 1938, he fleeted up to Commander Aircraft, Scouting Force, a post he held for the next 18 months. In June 1939, Blakely moved back to the west coast assuming concurrent command of Aircraft, Battle Force, and of CarDiv 2 with the rank of vice admiral. Once again he wore his flag in Yorktown. Blakely’s last active assignment was Commandant, 11th Naval District, with additional duty as the Commanding Officer, Naval Operating Base, San Diego. Ill health brought his relief from active duty on 9 December 1941 and, on 1 October 1942, his transfer to the retired list.
Blakely (Torpedo Boat No. 27) and Blakeley (Destroyer No. 150) were named for the War of 1812 hero, Capt. Johnston Blakeley, while Blakely (DE-1072) honors both that officer and his great grandnephew Vice Admiral Charles Adams Blakely.
The first Blakely (Torpedo Boat No. 27) was laid down on 12 January 1899 at South Boston, Mass., by George Lawley & Sons; launched on 22 November 1900; sponsored by Miss Nellie M. White; and commissioned on 27 December 1904, Lt. Charles E. Courtney in command.
Blakely completed dock trials at the Boston Navy Yard and then moved to Newport, R.I., where she fitted out with ordnance and electrical equipment at the torpedo station and underwent various tests and inspections before becoming a unit of the 3d Torpedo Flotilla, United States Atlantic Fleet. She cruised the Atlantic and gulf coasts of the United States with that organization, engaged in a series of drills, exercises, and port visits. The torpedo boat was placed out of commission, in reserve, at the Norfolk Navy Yard on or about 28 February 1907. She remained inactive until recommissioned on 13 January 1908, Lt. Thomas L. Ozburn in command, and, for about five months, resumed active operations with the 3d Torpedo Flotilla. On 1 July 1908, Blakely returned to inactive status with the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Norfolk. At some unspecified point in the succeeding months, she was moved to the New York Navy Yard where she was recommissioned on 6 May 1909, Ens. Reuben L. Walker in command. The warship cruised with the Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla for six months. On 9 November 1909, she went back into reserve, this time at Charleston, S.C.
She remained in reserve, though not necessarily inactive, for a little more than seven years. The first year or so, she spent in Charleston. By 1 July 1911, she had been moved to Newport, R.I., as a unit of the Reserve Torpedo Group. On St. Patrick's Day 1914, this ship, named for a native son of Ireland, was placed in ordinary at the Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I. This suggests that she was assigned to some quasi active duty in support of the Torpedo Station's mission. In May 1916, Blakely, still not in commission, moved to the Naval Station, Narragansett Bay, R.I., where she served as a station craft. On 6 April 1917, the day the United States joined the Allies in World War I, Blakely was placed back in commission. Assigned to the Patrol Force and based at New London, Conn., she patrolled the waters of the 1st and 2d Naval Districts. In August 1918, her name was cancelled and reassigned to a new Wickes-class destroyer then under construction.
For the remainder of her career, the warship was known as Coast Torpedo Boat No. 13. In January 1919, she was ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for inactivation. She was decommissioned for the last time on 8 March 1919, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 7 October 1919. She was sold to the U. S. Rail & Salvage Corp., Newburgh, N.Y., on 10 March 1920.
Raymond A. Mann
11 January 2006