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Princeton I (Screw Steamer)

(Screw Steamer: displacement 954; length 164'; beam 30'6̎; draft 17; speed 7 knots; complement 166; armament 2 12-inch shell guns, 12 42-pounder carronades; class Princeton)

A borough in west central New Jersey, scene of a Revolutionary War battle fought between the Continental Army and the British on 2 and 3 January 1777, and the birthplace of Capt. Robert F. Stockton.

I

The first Princeton was laid down on 20 October 1842 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pa., under the supervision of Capt. Robert F. Stockton; launched on 5 September 1843; and commissioned on 9 September 1843, Capt. Robert F. Stockton in command.

Princeton was the first screw steam warship of the U.S. Navy. Merrick & Towne of Philadelphia built her two vibrating lever engines, and John Ericsson designed her three tubular iron boilers. The latter burned hard coal and drove a six-bladed screw 14-inches in diameter.

Princeton made a trial trip in the Delaware River on 12 October 1843. She sailed from Philadelphia on 17 October for a sea trial, proceeding to New York, where she engaged in a speed contest with British steamer Great Western, and returned to Philadelphia on 20 October to finish outfitting. On 22 November Capt. Stockton reported "Princeton will be ready for sea in a week"; and on 28 November he dressed ship and received visitors on board for inspection. On 30 November, she towed frigate Raritan down the Delaware, later returning to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Princeton sailed on 1 January 1844 for New York, where she received her two big guns - named "Peacemaker" and "Oregon". Hogg and Delamater of New York, N.Y., made Peacemaker, under the direction of Capt. Stockton, who developed the idea for the piece while in England. It was heavily reenforced at the breech, weighed more than 27,000 pounds, and was considered to be an improved version of the "Oregon." John Ericsson designed Oregon, and it was similar in most respects to the Peacemaker.

Princeton sailed to Washington, D.C., in late January 1844, arriving on 13 February. Washingtonians displayed great interest in the ship and her guns. She made trial trips with passengers on board down the Potomac River on 16, 18, and 20 February, during which she fired Peacemaker several times. On 28 February, she departed Alexandria, Va., on a pleasure and trial trip down the Potomac with President John Tyler, his cabinet, and approximately two hundred guests on board. The ship had fired Peacemaker the previous day and it overheated, and against Stockton's better judgment, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, desiring to please the distinguished company, allowed the gunners to fire the gun. Peacemaker burst, however, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur; Gilmer; Capt. Beverly Kennon, Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs; Rep. Virgil Maxey of Maryland; Rep. David Gardiner of New York; and a servant of the President. The explosion also injured about twenty people, including Stockton. A Court of Inquiry exonerated Stockton and his crew of all blame in the matter.

Princeton sailed with the Home Squadron from 1845 to 1847. She later served in the Mediterranean, from 17 August 1847 to 24 June 1849. Upon her return from Europe she was surveyed and condemned to be broken up at the Boston Navy Yard, Mass., on 17 July 1849.

Published:Thu Oct 22 14:59:55 EDT 2015