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S. P. Lee I (Destroyer No. 310)

(DD-310: dp. 1,308; l. 114'4- "; b. 30'11- " (wl); dr. 9'9- " (aft.) ; s. 35 k.; a. 4 4", 1 3", 4 21" tt.; cl. Chauncey)

Samuel Phillips Lee, grandson of Revolutionary War statesman, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, was born on 13 February 1812 in Fairfax County, Va. Appointed Midshipman on 22 November 1825, he served in sloop of war, Hornet, on the West India station for six months before beginning three years of duty in the Mediterranean. He served in Charles Wilkes' exploring expedition from 1838 to 1842 and spent most of the next decade conducting coastal surveys.

During the Mexican War, he volunteered for combat service and was present at the capture of Tobasco. In 1854, he took command of brig, Dolphin, and made oceanographic observations in her in the North Atlantic.

In the East Indies, in command of Vandalia at the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned home in her on his own initiative and was assigned to blockade duty off Charleston, S.C. He was selected for command of the new screw sloop of war, Oneida, and served in her during Flag Officer Farragut's campaign against New Orleans, and follow-up operations on the Mississippi.

In September 1862, he was given command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, with the rank of Acting Rear Admiral. For two years, he led this increasingly efficient squadron as it choked off vital Confederate commerce. In October 1864, he was transferred to command of the Mississippi Squadron which held through the end of the Civil War.

Much of Lee's postwar service kept him ashore in Washington. He was promoted to Rear Admiral on 22 April 1870, and was placed on the retired list on 13 February 1875. He died on 7 June 1897 at his home in Silver Spring, Sligo, Md.


The first S. P. Lee (Destroyer No. 310) was laid down on 31 December 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., San Francisco, Calif.; launched by Mrs. Thomas J. Wyche; and commissioned on 30 October 1920, Comdr. G. T. Swosey, Jr., in command.

Assigned to Reserve Destroyer Division, Pacific Fleet, S. P. Lee spent most of her first two years in the San Diego area with a reduced complement. She sailed on 6 February 1923 as part of Destroyer Squadron 11 for combined fleet operations in the Canal Zone. Arriving Balboa 20 days later following exercises en route, the destroyer engaged in tactical and strategic maneuvers through the end of March and returned to San Diego on 11 April. From 25 June to 30 August, S. P. Lee and DesRon 11 cruised the coast of Washington, putting in to Tacoma, Port Angeles, and Seattle and serving as escort to President Warren Harding in Henderson on his arrival at Seattle on 27 July. She then participated in squadron maneuvers through the end of August with Battleship Division 3, putting in to San Francisco on the 31st.

S. P. Lee sailed for her homeport at 0830, 8 September, in company with most of DesRon 11 under Captain E. H. Watson in Delphy leading the way. Engaged in a high-speed engineering run down the Pacific Coast, the squadron changed course 95° at 2100 to make the approach to Santa Barbara Channel. At 2105, Delphy stranded on the rocks of Point Pedernales, known to Sailors as Honda, or the Devil's Jaw. Though warning signals were sent up by the flagship, the sheltering configuration of the coast line prevented their recognition by the remaining ships of DesRon 11; and, in the ensuing confusion, six other destroyers, S. P. Lee, Young, Woodbury, Fuller, Chauncey, and Nicholas ran aground also.

Valiant efforts by the crew to save the ship proved futile, and the ship was abandoned the following day and declared a total loss. S. P. Lee and her sister destroyers were struck from the Navy list on 20 November. Her wreckage was sold on 19 October 1925 to Robert J. Smith of Oakland, Calif. He removed some of the destroyer's equipment but was unable to salvage her hull.

07 February 2006

Published: Mon Feb 29 09:08:25 EST 2016