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Santee I (Frigate)

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Caption: Santee, her mizzenmast and fore- and maintopmasts removed, housed over as station ship at the Naval Academy. Like Reina Mercedes, also in this volume, Santee was an integral part of the scene at Annapolis for many years.

(Fr.: t. 1,726; lbp. 175'; b. 45'; dph. 14'5"; cpl. 480; a. 2 64-pdrs., 10 8" shell guns, 20 32-pdrs. 57 cwt., 16 32-pdrs. 33 cwt., 2 heavy 12-pdrs.; cl. Brandywine)

A river, formed by the confluence of the Congree and Wateree rivers in central South Carolina. It flows southeast across the state for some 150 miles before emptying into the Atlantic at Santee Point.

The first Santee, a sailing frigate rated at 44 guns, was laid down in 1820 by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard; but, due to a shortage of funds, she long remained uncompleted on the stocks. She was finally launched on 16 February 1855 and first commissioned on 9 June 1861, Capt. Henry Eagle in command.

Santee departed Portsmouth on 20 June 1861, stopped at Hampton Roads to load ammunition, and resumed her voyage to the Gulf of Mexico on 10 July. On 8 August, the frigate captured schooner, C. P. Knapp, in the gulf some 350 miles south of Pensacola and escorted the blockade runner to that port. On 27 October, Santee took her second prize, Delta, off Galyeston. That hermaphrodite brig had attempted to slip into Galveston with a cargo of salt from Liverpool.

Shortly before midnight on 7 November, boats left the frigate and entered Galveston Bay hoping to capture and burn Confederate armed steamer, General Rusk. However, in attempting to avoid detection, the boats ran aground. Since he had lost the advantage of surprise, the expedition's commander, Lt. James E. Jouett, cancelled his plans to attack General Rusk and turned his attention to the chartered Confederate lookout vessel, Royal Yacht. After a desperate hand-to-hand fight, he captured Royal Yacht's crew, set the armed schooner afire, and retired to Santee with about a dozen prisoners. During the action, one man from the frigate was killed and two of her officers and six of her men were wounded, one mortally. After a five or six-mile chase on 30 December, boats from Santee captured 14-ton Confederate schooner, Garonne. Capt. Eagle stripped the prize for use as a lighter.

In January 1862, when the Union naval force in the Gulf of Mexico was divided into two squadrons, Santee was assigned to Flag Officer Farragut's new West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Under the new organization, she continued to blockade the Texas coast, primarily off Galveston, until summer. Then, because scurvy had weakened the frigate's crew and the enlistments of many of her bluejackets had expired, the ship sailed north. She reached Boston on 22 August and was decommissioned on 4 September.

Refitted at the Boston Navy Yard, the ship was recommissioned there exactly a month later and sailed for Newport, R.I., to serve as a school ship at the United States Naval Academy which had been moved there from Annapolis, Md., for security during the Civil War. At Newport, midshipmen lived, studied, and attended classes in frigates Santee and Constitution as they prepared for positions of leadership in the Union Navy.

After the close of the Civil War, the Naval Academy returned to Annapolis, and Santee, carrying midshipmen, sailed for that port and moored near Fort Severn on 2 August 1865. There, she continued her duty as school ship which she had performed at Newport. The following year, she became a gunnery ship and was used by midshipmen to master the art of naval gunnery. About the same time, the frigate began to be used as a barracks ship for midshipmen being punished and for new fourthclassmen receiving their first taste of Navy life. For decade after decade, the frigate served the Naval Academy without interruption and was a strong and memorable agent in molding the nation's naval officers.

Then, before dawn on 2 April 1912, after a half a century of duty as an educator, Santee sank at her mooring. Efforts to refloat the frigate proved unsuccessful. She was sold to Joseph G. Hitner, of Philadelphia, on 2 August 1912, the anniversary of her arrival at Annapolis. After six months of effort, she was finally raised; and, on 8 May 1913, Santee departed the Severn under tow and proceeded to Boston where she was burned for the copper and brass in her hull.

Published: Wed Sep 02 13:32:58 EDT 2015