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John Adams I (Frigate)


(Fr: t. 544; l. 139' (b.p.); b. 32'; dph. 16'4"; cpl. 220; a. 24 12-pdrs., 6 24-pdrs.)


John Adams, born in Braintree, Mass., 19 October 1735, graduated from Harvard in 1755. He studied law while teaching school for the next 3 years and was admitted to the bar in 1758. His opposition to the Stamp Act in 1765 established Adams as a political leader. After moving to Boston he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later in the Provincial Congress.

In 1774 Adams was selected as one of the delegates from Massachusetts to the first Continental Congress where he became a champion of American rights and liberties and later a leader in the independence movement. He seconded Richard Henry Lee's motion for a resolution of independence 7 June 1776, and he served on the committee which drafted the Declaration of Independence which was adopted 4 July.

On 5 October 1775, Congress created the first of a series of committees to study naval matters. From that time onward throughout his career Adams championed the establishment and strengthening of an American Navy. He was so active and effective in forwarding the nation's naval interests that he is often called the father of the Navy.

Adams succeeded Silas Deane as commissioner to France in 1777 to begin a decade of diplomatic service in Europe only briefly interrupted in 1779 when he returned to Massachusetts to play a leading role in the state constitutional convention.

John Adams was the first Vice President of the United States serving under Washington from 1789 to 1797 when he became the second President. Difficulties with France during his administration prompted him to push vigorously for construction of the Navy which had been neglected after the treaty of Paris.

Defeated for reelection in 1800, John Adams retired from public life to Quincy, Mass., where he died 4 July 1826, coincidently both the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the day of Thomas Jefferson's death.

John Quincy Adams, the eldest son of President John Adams, was born 1 July 1767 at Quincy, Mass. His travel in Europe accompanying his father on diplomatic missions gave him a broad knowledge of diplomacy. Washington appointed him Minister to the Netherlands in 1794, and his father sent him to Prussia, where he represented the United States from 1797 to 1801. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1803 to 1808, and the following year he became Minister to Russia. In 1814 he was one of the American diplomats whose negotiations with the English led to the Treaty of Ghent, which settled the War of 1812. Service after the war as Minister to England rounded out his diplomatic training.

James Monroe appointed him Secretary of State, and he won enduring fame in the post. The Monroe Doctrine was the crowning achievement of the 8 years of skillful service in the office establishing the position of the United States as a power capable of dealing with other nations as equals.

In 1824, after an inconclusive general election, the House of Representatives elected him sixth President of the United States. After serving one term, his try for reelection was defeated by Andrew Jackson. Two years after his return to Quincy, he was elected to Congress, where he enjoyed widespread respect for his great knowledge and his high-minded opposition to any extension of slavery. While on the floor of the House, he was seized by a stroke 21 February 1848 and died shortly afterwards.

The first John Adams was named for the second President of the United States while the second John Adams (SSB(N)-625) was named for both him and his son, John Quincy Adams


The first John Adams was built for the United States by the people of Charleston, S.C., under contract to Paul Prichard and launched in the latter's shipyard some 3 miles from Charleston 5 June 1799. The new frigate, Captain George Cross in command, sailed on or about 1 October for Cayenne, French Guiana, to operate against French privateers based at that port. Before she arrived Cayenne, the British had captured Surinam making the French base in Guiana unsafe for privateers and prompting Captain Cross to sail on to Guadeloupe to join her squadron.

Early in January 1800, she began her effective operations against the French taking an unidentified lugger off San Juan, P.R., and recapturing brig Dolphin. She retook brigs Hannibal 22 March and Atlantic the next day, both prizes of French privateer Le President Tout. French privateer schooner La Jason surrendered to her 3 April, and in May she retook schooners Dispatch and William. Sometime in the late spring or summer she recaptured American brig Olive, and on 13 June she took French schooner Decade.

These victories punctuated and highlighted the invaluable, but less glamorous, day-to-day duty of patrolling the West Indies and protecting American shipping continued through the late summer and fall.

John Adams was dispatched to the United States 5 December escorting a convoy. She was placed in ordinary in Charleston in mid-January 1801, and in late June she sailed to Washington where she was laid up. The remarkable success of the frigate was representative of the new Navy which her namesake, President John Adams, had called into being to protect the growing and vital commerce of the young nation.

As the "quasi-war" with France drew to a close, President Adams could report on the Navy to Congress with pride: "The present Navy of the United States, called suddenly into existence by a great national emergency, has raised us in our own esteem; and by the protection afforded to our commerce has effected to the extent of our expectations the objects for which it was created."

Peace with France freed the Navy for operations against Barbary corsairs who had been preying on American shipping in the Mediterranean. A small squadron under Commodore Dale, sent out in 1801 for operations against Tripoli, was followed in 1802 by a much stronger force under Commodore Richard V. Morris. John Adams commanded by Captain John Rodgers, sailed from Hampton Roads 22 October to join Commodore Morris. After escort duty from Gibraltar to Malaga and Minorca, she finally caught up with Commodore Morris at Malta 5 January 1803. She operated with the squadron until 3 May when she received orders to cruise independently off Tripoli. Upon arriving off Tripoli, John Adams boldly attacked the forts and the gunboats anchored under their protection. Several days later she captured 20-gun Tripolitan cruiser Meshouda. Reinforced by New York, and Enterprise, she engaged a flotilla of enemy gunboats off Tripoli 22 May sending them scurrying back into the harbor to safety. Five days later, with the added support of Adams, a sister frigate also named for President John Adams-the squadron again bested a group of pirate gunboats.

One of the most important victories of the war came 21 June when John A dams and Enterprise captured a 22-gun vessel belonging to Tripoli thus weakening that state sufficiently to allow the squadron to turn its attention to Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco, which were threatening U.S. commerce in the Western Mediterranean. Throughout the summer and early fall John Adams operated in that quarter before returning home with New York.

Meanwhile, Commodore Edward Preble, who had led a powerful fleet to the Mediterranean, vigorously pressed the fight. In August and September 1804 he made a series of major attacks on Tripoli. As the second of these blows was being delivered 7 August, John Adams, now under Captain Isaac Chauncey, arrived on the scene deeply laden with stores. Her boats participated in a reconnaissance patrol on the night of 18 August, and 6 days later she slipped in close to the city for an intensive 4-hour bombardment. Two nights later during a similar attack, an enemy shot sank one of John Adam? boats, killing three men and wounding a fourth, as the American Squadron severely punished Tripoli with over 700 well-directed rounds which took effect within the city. After a fifth attack had been successfully completed 3 September, bad weather interrupted operations and John Adams sailed to Syracuse with other ships of the squadron.

Three months later she sailed for New York with Commodore Preble, arriving 26 February 1805. After a third Mediterranean cruise from May to November, she was laid up in ordinary.

The outbreak of the War of 1812 found her undergoing repairs at Boston whence she was hurried to New York to have the work completed. There the British blockade and a critical shortage of seamen kept her in a laid-up status until early 1814. She finally sailed under a flag of truce carrying peace commissioners Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell to Europe and arrived Wargo Island, Norway, 14 April. She returned to the United States 5 September bringing dispatches from the American commissioners at Ghent.

Meanwhile, the Barbary pirates, taking advantage of the American Navy's preoccupation with the British fleet during the War of 1812, had resumed operations against American merchantmen in the Mediterranean. Fortunately the treaty of peace signed on Christmas Eve 1814 freed United States men-of-war for renewed attention to this chronic trouble spot. In the autumn of 1815 John Adams arrived in the Mediterranean to assist frigates United States and Constellation and sloops Eric and Ontario in maintaining peace and order in the area after strong squadrons under Commodores Decatur and Bainbridge had induced the Barbary princes to honor their treaty commitments. Early in 1816 she returned home with dispatches.

Pirates were also active in the West Indies at this time. Taking advantage of the chaos attendant upon the dissolution of Spain's American empire, lawless vessels from many nations preyed on neutral as well as Spanish commerce in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and along the storied Spanish Main. For the next few years John Adams was busy fighting buccaneers. On 22 December 1817 she demanded and received the surrender of Amelia Island, off the east coast of Florida, the base from which corsairs of Commodore Aury pounced upon merchantmen of all nations.

Diplomacy also had an important role in this struggle to make the sea safe for American shipping. In the spring of 1819 Secretary of the Navy Smith Thompson selected Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry for the delicate mission of establishing friendly relations with the government of newly independent Venezuela and negotiating to obtain restitution for United States vessels which had been illegally captured during the revolution under the guise of patriotism. Perry boarded his flagship John Adams at Annapolis and sailed in company with schooner Nonsuch 7 June. A month later he reached the mouth of the Orinoco, which he ascended to Angostura in Nonsuch while John Adams sailed on to Trinidad to await his return at Port-of-Spain. After protracted negotiation, the government of Venezuela granted all the demands of the United States 11 August; but, during the passage down the river, Perry was stricken with yellow fever and died before he returned to his flagship. Commodore Charles Morris succeeded Perry in command of the squadron, and John Adams accompanied his flagship Constellation on a voyage to the Plata River to continue the negotiations inaugurated by Perry to establish friendly relations with the new Latin American republics and to protect American commerce from South American privateers. After visiting Montevideo and Buenos Aires, both ships returned to the United States, arriving Hampton Roads 24 April 1820.

In spite of these successes, piracy remained rampant in the West Indies, and John Adams was part of a strong West India Squadron created in 1822 to cope with the problem. Biddle's ships labored with indefatigable zeal; but the task, entailing careful searches by small-boat expeditions of innumerable bays, lagoons, and inlets, seemed endless. Yellow fever took a much heavier toll than the enemy necessitating reinforcements which arrived 3 March 1823 when Commodore Porter's "Mosquito Fleet" anchored off Saint Thomas. Porter, the squadron's new commander, selected John Adams as his flagship. When Porter was recalled, his successor, Commodore Lewis Warrington retained John Adams as his flagship until 1826. From time to time, thereafter, the proud frigate returned to the West Indies for operations against pirates until 1829 when she was laid up and almost entirely rebuilt at the Navy Yard, Gosport, Va.

Completely rejuvenated, she joined the Mediterranean Squadron in 1831. One of her first duties was to take her former commander, ex-Commodore Porter, to Constantinople where he became the U.S.'s first charge d'affaires. The ship was granted the rare privilege of passing through the Dardanelles with guns mounted. Thereafter. John Adams convoyed ships in the Mediterranean and in 1833 visited Liberia, being colonized with American Negroes.

After extensive repairs in the United States, she sailed from Hampton Roads (5 May 1838 on a cruise around the world accompanied by Columbia. Particular stress was placed unon showing the flag in the East Indies where the United States enjoyed a prosperous and growing trade. Both ships arrived Rio de Janeiro 10 July but departed separately, John Adams sailing 25 July. She stopped at Zanzibar en route to Bombay, where she rejoined Columbia before pushing on to Goa and Colombo, Ceylon.

At the latter port the ships learned that natives at Soo-Soo, Sumatra, had attacked American ship Eclipse. The squadron immediately sailed to the scene of the incident, and bombarded the forts at Quallah Battoo to induce the Rajahs of Sumatra to agree to offer assistance and protection to American vessels. Before returning to Rio de Janeiro 23 April 1840, the squadron called at Singapore, Macao, Honolulu, Valparaiso, and Cape Horn.

John Adams finally arrived Boston about the middle of June where she was laid up until 1842. After duty on the Brazil station, she went into ordinary where she remained until recommissioned at the beginning of the Mexican War. She was anchored off the bar at Santiago 8 May 1846 during the Battle of Palo Alto and she maintained a blockading station off the east coast of Mexico for the remainder of the war.

John Adams returned to Boston in September 1848 and received extensive repairs before joining the Africa station for action with the English Navy against the slave trade. She returned from this difficult duty in July 1853. Thereafter, with the exception of periods at home for repairs, John Adams operated in the Pacific and the Far East until after the outbreak of the Civil War. She sailed for home from Siam 6 July 1861 and reached New York 11 January 1862, bringing a box containing two royal letters from the King of Siam to the President along with a sword and a pair of elephant tusks.

John Adams was sent to Newport, R.I., the wartime location of the Naval Academy, to act as training ship for midshipmen. In the summer of 1863 she joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and took station off Morris Island inside Charleston Bar, where she served as flagship of the inner blockade until she sailed into the harbor after the evacuation of Charleston in February 1865.

Late that summer she sailed to Boston where she decomissioned in September and was sold 5 October 1867.

Published: Wed Jul 22 15:19:20 EDT 2015