Skip to main content
Related Content
Document Type
  • Ship History
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials
(SlpW: t. 939; l. 150'00" (bp.) ; b. 36'00" (md.) ; dph. 16'8" ; s. 11 k.; cpl. 210; a. 4 8", 18 32-pdrs.)

A town in Pennsylvania, now a residential section of Philadelphia, and the scene of the Revolutionary War battle 4 October 1777 between General Washington's troops and the British under Sir William Howe.

Germantown, a sloop-of-war, was launched at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 22 August 1846; sponsored by Miss Lavinia Fanning Watson; because of damaging ice, transferred 18 December to Norfolk Navy Yard for fitting out; and commissioned 9 March 1847, Comdr. Franklin Buchanan in command.

Germantown departed Norfolk 15 March for service during the Mexican War with Commodore M. C. Perry's Home Squadron. Reaching Sacriflcios Island 1 April, she stood off Alvarado the following day when that town surrendered "without firing a gun." She then sailed with the squadron to Tuxpan, which Perry described as the "only fortified place of importance situated on the gulf coast not in our possession." With the landing force of seamen and Marines her detachment crossed the bar 18 April and successfully stormed the Mexican fortifications. As "a point of honor as well as duty," they reclaimed guns and ordnance stores, seized by the enemy from the wrecked brig Truxtun.

After cruising the coast of Lobos Island, Germantown furnished 130 men to assist in the second expedition against Tobasco. Between 13 and 16 June the force under Commodore Perry razed the defenses and occupied the town. During the next 6 months she cruised the Mexican coast from Vera Cruz to Tuxpan, blockading Mexican ports on the Gulf Coast; and between 9 August and 10 November she served as Commodore Perry's flagship. Returning to Sacrificios Island 8 January 1848, she took on board the remains of gallant American dead and departed for the United States 15 January. Steaming via Havana Cuba she arrived Norfolk 16 February and decommissioned for repairs 25 February.

Germantown recommissioned 8 April, Comdr. Charles Lowndes in command. Departing Norfolk 25 April, she returned to Vera Cruz 19 May to again serve with Commodore Perry's Home Squadron. While off Laguna de Terminos 3 June, she received news of the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. She returned to Vera Cruz 9 July; and, after receiving government dispatches, she departed Punta de Anton Lizardo 29 August and sailed to Pensacola, Fla., where she arrived 12 September.

Departing 1 October, Germantown sailed to the West Indies and arrived on station at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, 28 October. She actively cruised off the Virgin Islands until 30 June 1849 when she sailed for the United States. After touching at Key West and Norfolk, she resumed her station off St. Thomas 10 February 1850 and protected American commerce until again ordered to the United States 8 August. She reached New York 11 September and decommissioned 21 September.

Recommissioned 23 December, Comdr. J. D. Knight in command, Germantown was assigned as flagship of Commodore E. A. F. Lavallette's African Squadron 10 January 1851. She departed 12 April; sailed via the Madeira Islands to the Cape Verde Islands; and arrived Porto Praya 14 May to relieve sloop-of-war Plymouth. Operating out of Porto Praya with sloops Dale and John Adams and brigs Perry and Porpoise, she spent almost the next 2 years cruising the South Atlantic to St. Helena Island and along the African coast from Cape Mesurado to Loando, Portuguese West Africa. During this time the squadron "rendered aid to our countrymen, gave protection to our commerce and security to the emigrants and missionaries located on the coast, and as far as practicable," reported Commodore Lavallette, "checked the slave traders in their abominable traffic." On 8 February 1853 she seized the American schooner Rachel P. Brown and sent the suspected slave ship to Norfolk. Relieved on station by famed frigate Constitution, she departed Porto Praya 4 March; during her homeward voyage, she collected data for Lt. M. F. Maury's world-wide wind and current survey. She reached Boston 30 March and decommissioned 9 April.

Germantown recommissioned 23 November, Comdr. W. F. Lynch in command, and sailed 3 December for service in Commodore W. D. Salter's Brazil Squadron. Arriving Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 16 January 1854, she joined frigate Savannah, brig Bainbrige, and storeship Relief and cruised the South Atlantic from Bahia, Brazil, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. During much of 1855 she maintained station off Montevideo, Uruguay, where political disturbances and revolutionary activities threatened the lives and property of foreign nationals. Comdr. Lynch sent a Marine detachment ashore 28 August to protect American interests; during an insurrection 3 months later a landing party of Sailors and Marines under Lt. A. S. Nicholson assisted forces from ships of three other nations in guarding consulates and the customhouse. After completing duty with the Brazil Squadron, she departed Bahia 8 January 1857; reached Hampton Roads 9 February; and decommissioned 3 days later.

Germantown again recommissioned 15 July, Comdr. R. L. Page in command, for duty in the Far East. Departing Norfolk 4 August, she sailed via the Cape of Good Hope to Ceylon, where in 22 December she joined Flag Officer Josiah Tattnall's East India Squadron off Point de Gala. For 2 years she cruised Far Eastern waters and visited the principal ports of China and Japan, where she found "uniform friendly reception" as the squadron guarded American interests in the Orient. Sailing via the Cape of Good Hope, she returned to Norfolk in April 1860 and decommissioned the 18th.

Completely equipped for sea and awaiting a crew, Germantown was scuttled at Gosport Navy Yard 20 April 1861 as Union forces evacuated Norfolk. The Confederates raised her in June; fitted her out as a floating battery to serve near Craney Island for the protection of Norfolk; then sank her as an obstruction in the Elizabeth River shortly before evacuating Norfolk 10 May 1862. Raised by Union forces 22 April 1863, Germantown saw no further service. Her hulk was sold by auction at Norfolk 8 February 1864.

Published: Mon Jul 13 09:50:13 EDT 2015