(Sch: t. 95; a. 3 guns)
James Fenimore Cooper, noted American author, was born in Burlington, N.J., 15 September 1789 and served as midshipman in the Navy between 1 January 1808 and 6 May 1811. Resigning to devote himself to literature, he put his knowledge of the sea to good use not only in several of his novels, but also in his History of the Navy of the United States of America, an excellent two-volume work published in 1839. Cooper died 14 September 1851.
Fenimore Cooper, a schooner, was the New York pilot boat Skiddy until purchased by the Navy in January 1853. She was commissioned 21 March 1853, Master H. K. Stevens in command.
Fenimore Cooper was acquired for use as a tender for the Surveying Expedition to the Bering Strait, North Pacific, and China Seas commanded by Commander C. Ringgold, and later, Lieutenant J. Rodgers. The expedition of five ships, led by Vincennes, sailed from Hampton Roads 11 June 1853 for the Cape of Good Hope and the Orient. Fenimore Cooper and two other ships charted archipelagoes and passages between Batavia and Singapore and from Java northward to the South China Sea until June 1854, when she rejoined the flagship at Hong Kong. Through that summer, the expedition cruised the coast of China, joining the East India Squadron in protecting American interests.
Returning to its surveys in September 1854, the squadron sailed northward to Petropavlovsk, where the ships separated. Vincennes penetrated the Arctic, while Fenimore Cooper searched the Aleutians unsuccessfully for information concerning the fate of the men of whaler Monongahela, missing since 1853. Returning to the United States, Fenimore Cooper called at Sitka, Alaska, then Russian territory, in what her commanding officer believed to be the first visit ever paid by an American naval ship to that port.
Fenimore Cooper arrived in San Francisco 11 October 1855, and through the next 3 years, carried supplies between Mare Island Navy Yard and San Francisco. Once more assigned to survey duty, she sailed from San Francisco 26 September 1858 to chart the shipping lanes between the west coast and China. She made a thorough examination of numerous small islands and reefs in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands, and finding a deposit of good quality guano on French Frigate Shoals, took possession of them for the United States 4 January 1859.
The schooner sailed on to take soundings and make observations in the Marianas and the islands south of Japan. On 13 August she arrived in Kanagawa Bay off Yokohama, where on the 23d she was grounded during a severe typhoon. All her men and most of the stores, instruments, charts and records of survey were saved, but the ship was found not worthy of repair, and abandoned. Her commanding officer and many of her crew returned to the United States in the Japanese naval ship Candinmarruh.