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Supply I (Storeship)


A general word classification appropriate for the duties of the vessel.


(Ship: tonnage 547; speed 11.0 knots; complement 40; armament 4 24-pounders)

The first Supply, a ship-rigged sailing vessel purchased by the Navy at Boston, Mass., late in 1846 for service during the Mexican War, was delivered to the government at the Boston Navy Yard on 8 December 1846, and was commissioned there on 19 December 1846, Lt. John Calhoun in command.

Supply sailed for the Gulf of Mexico on 21 January 1847 and supported the Home Squadron's operations against Mexico serving as a storeship until late in the summer when Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry reduced the size of his force in Mexican waters after the U.S. "evacuation of Tabasco." Supply returned to New York on 26 September.

Exactly two months later, the ship, now commanded by Lt. William F. Lynch, departed New York harbor and proceeded to the Mediterranean with equipment and stores to be used in an expedition to explore the Dead Sea. She reached Gibraltar on the afternoon of 19 December, and proceeded to Port Mahon with supplies for the Mediterranean Squadron. There the ship was delayed in quarantine for a fortnight because of two cases of smallpox which occurred on board. After finally delivering stores to the American warships, she resumed her voyage to the Levant on 4 February 1848.

After touching at Malta on the 9th, the ship reached Smyrna, Turkey, on the 16th. There Lt. Lynch left the ship and proceeded to Constantinople to obtain permission from the Sultan for the expedition before returning on board on 11 March 1848. After twice getting underway and being forced back to Smyrna by bad weather, the ship finally sailed to Syria and reached Beirut on the 25th; and the expedition left the ship and proceeded on to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Lynch's report of the exploration is remained a primary source of information on the area well into the 20th Century.

Meanwhile, Supply cruised in the Mediterranean. When she returned, late in August, she learned that the exploring party had successfully completed their undertaking and that Lynch, forced by the poor health of his men, had chartered a small French brig to carry them to Malta. Supply then headed west and reached Malta on 11 September. There, Lynch and the entire expedition party reembarked; and the ship returned to the United States. She reached Norfolk, Va., on 8 December and was decommissioned there on the 17th.

Recommissioned on 17 February 1849, the stores ship sailed once more for the Mediterranean on 8 March, carrying the U.S. consul to Tripoli. After disembarking her passenger and delivering stores to the ships of the American squadron in that ancient sea, Supply returned home, via Brazil; arrived back at Norfolk on 4 September 1849; and was laid up there a week later.

Reactivated on 22 November 1849, the ship sailed early in January 1850 and proceeded around Cape Horn to the California coast which was overflowing with "49ers" who had been drawn there by word of a gold strike at Sutter's Mill. Two years later, she returned to New York to prepare for service in the West India Squadron. While in the Far East, sheserved as the stores ship which supplied Commodore Matthew C. Perry's expedition to Japan. She entered Tokyo Bay on 8 July 1853. After serving on the China coast, the ship returned to New York in February 1855.

Supply's next assignment was perhaps the most unusual duty of her career. The ship, commanded by Lt. David Dixon Porter departed New York on 4 June 1855 and headed for the Mediterranean to obtain camels to be returned to the United States. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who was extremely interested in developing the territory recently acquired by the United States during its war with Mexico, had arranged for the expedition to obtain the animals for experimental use by the Army on the American desert west of the Rockies.

The ship reached Smyrna on 30 January 1856, loaded 21 camels, and sailed on 15 February for the Gulf of Mexico. Porter delivered the animals to Indianola, Texas, in May. The ship had reached the halfway point on this curious mission for she was soon on her way back to the Levant for another load of camels which she transferred to Suwanee in the Mississippi early in February 1857.

Next in her string of interesting assignments came service in the special squadron assembled and sent to South American waters to support diplomatic efforts to settle differences between the United States and Paraguay which resulted from the firing upon Water Witch. Supply arrived with the fleet off Asuncion on 25 January 1859 and stood by during negotiations which resulted in an apology and an indemnity which settled the affair.

A cruise on the Africa Station and duty on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico followed. January 1861 found the ship in Pensacola Harbor and, on the 16th, she sailed north with the families and possessions of the officers and men who had been stationed there and arrived at New York on 4 February.

The ship sailed south on 15 March 1861 carrying Army troops and marines. She anchored in Pensacola harbor on 7 April and, four days later, landed them at night to reenforce Ft. Pickens.

Throughout the Civil War, Supply supported the blockading squadrons on the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. She took her sole prize of the conflict on 29 January 1862 when she captured schooner Stephen Hart carrying arms and ammunition south of Sarasota, Florida. Her services, although undramatic, enabled many warships to remain on station in the blockade and thus helped substantially to shorten the war.

After the end of hostilities, Supply served in the Brazil Squadron in 1866, and in the Far East in 1867 and 1868. After being laid up from 27 June 1868 to 5 November 1869, the ship sailed for Europe but soon returned and was decommissioned at New York on 7 July 1870.

On 21 February 1871, she was recommissioned and sailed eastward across the Atlantic carrying supplies for the citizens of France left destitute by the Franco-Prussian War. In the spring of 1872, the ship carried a relief crew to Lancaster in the South Atlantic and, the following year, transported the American exhibits to Austria for the Vienna Exposition. Following two years in ordinary at New York, the ship returned to Europe to bring back the exhibits from Vienna. Later that year, she made a training cruise with boys from New York. Then, in 1877, she served as a tender to training ship Minnesota.

In 1878, she sailed to Europe with the American exhibits for the Paris Exposition and brought them home in March 1879. The ship was decommissioned at New York on 23 April 1879 and was towed to Philadelphia where she was laid up until she was sold on 3 May 1884 to M. H. Gregory of Great Neck, Long Island, N.Y.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

11 March 2024

Published: Mon Mar 11 14:40:15 EDT 2024