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Grampus I (Schooner)

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(Schooner: dp. 171.5 tons; length 97 feet; beam 23 feet 6 inches; depth 9 feet 6 inches; complement 64; armament 12 guns)

The grampus is a large cetacean (Grampus griseus) of the "blackfish family" commonly referred to as Risso's dolphin. Found in warm seas throughout the world, the dolphin has a blunt head, barrel-shaped body and ranges in color from grey to black. Risso's dolphins swim in groups of 3-50 animals and prefer offshore waters, where they hunt squid, octopi and fish.


The first Grampus, a schooner built at Washington Navy Yard under the supervision of naval constructor William Doughty on a design by Henry Eckford was laid down in 1820 on a 73-foot keel; and launched in early August 1821. The necessity of suppressing piracy and of maintaining ships to catch slavers led to the building of five such schooners, largest of which was Grampus. This was the first building program undertaken by the Navy since the War of 1812.

Lt. F. H. Gregory commanded Grampus on her first cruise, which took her to the West Indies in pursuit of pirates. In the company of Hornet, Enterprise, Spark, Porpoise, and Shark, Grampus helped convoy merchant vessels in the region, a policy encouraged by the lack of merchant ship protection received from local governments. Indeed, in October 1821, the governor at Gustavia in St. Barthelmy (modern Guadaloupe) refused to seize a known pirate ship or recover stolen American goods. Public opinion back in the United States waxed indignant over outrages like these and the squadron escorted friendly ships out of St. Thomas into 1822.

On 16 August 1822, Grampus gave chase to a brig flying Spanish colors, but which Lt. Gregory suspected was a pirate. When called upon to surrender, the privateer, the brig Palmyra out of Puerto Rico, replied with desultory cannon and musket fire. To this rebutt, Grampus answered in turn, firing broadsides that reduced Palmyra's rigging to a complete wreck, killing one and wounding six. The brig struck shortly thereafter, surrendering a crew of 88, one long 18-pounder gun and eight 18-pound carronades. Lt. Gregory discovered Palmyra carried the papers of a privateer merely as a subterfuge, as her officers acknowledged they had robbed the American schooner Coquette.

Grampus and the rest of the squadron shifted operations to Thompson's Island (later Key West) in 1823, continuing patrol and anti-piracy operations for ships sailing in the West Indies. The schooner took part in the landings in Puerto Rico in 1824, where the U.S. received an apology from the Spanish for firing on schooner Fox in March 1823.

Grampus continued her duties in the protection of shipping in the Caribbean Sea and in the South Atlantic Ocean for almost two more decades, although little is known about these cruises. Between 1840-41, Grampus sailed on the Africa Station, conducting anti-slavery patrols until detached from the African Squadron while lying at Boston Navy Yard. Attached to the Home Squadron at Norfolk, Va., 23 January 1843, Grampus was lost at sea in March, presumably after having foundered in a gale off Charleston, S.C.



03 September 2004

Published: Mon Jul 13 13:11:49 EDT 2015