(Torpedo Boat No. 15: t. 46.5; 1. 99'6"; b. 12'6"; dr. 3'3"; s. 21.5 k.; cpl. 16; a. 1 1-pdr. R. F., 2 18" tt. cl. Talbot)
John Gunnell Talbot, born on 16 August 1844 at Danbury, Ky., was appointed a midshipman in 1862 and graduated from the United States Naval Academy on 12 June 1866. Commissioned ensign on 12 March 1868, Talbot attained the rank of master on 26 March 1869 and of lieutenant on 21 March 1870. He was serving as executive officer of Saginaw when that steamer grounded on a reef off Ocean Island in the mid-Pacific on 29 October 1870 and broke up. Lt. Talbot and four men volunteered to go to Honolulu, the nearest port, 1,500 miles away, for help.
The men began the voyage in an open boat on 18 November and reached Kauai, Hawaii, on 19 December. However, as the party attempted to get through the heavy surf to shore, their boat capsized. Lt. Talbot and three others drowned while attempting to swim through the rough breakers to shore. The lone survivor reported the wreck of Saginaw, and her crew was saved.
Silas Talbot, born on 11 January 1751 in Dighton, Mass., was commissioned a captain in the Continental Army on 1 July 1775. After participating in the siege of Boston and aiding in the transportation of troops to New York, he obtained command of a fireship and attempted to use it to set fire to the British warship Asia.
The attempt failed, but the daring it displayed won him a promotion to major on 10 October 1777.
After suffering a severe wound while fighting to defend Philadelphia, Talbot returned to active service in the summer of 1778 and fought in Rhode Island. As commander of Pigot and later of Argo, both under the Army, he cruised against Loyalist vessels that were harassing American trade between Long Island and Nantucket and made prisoners of many of them. Because of his success fighting afloat for the Army, Congress made him a captain in the Continental Navy on 17 September 1779. However, since Congress had no suitable warship to entrust to him, Talbot put to sea in command of the privateer General Washington. In it he took one prize, but soon thereafter ran into the British fleet off New York. After a chase, he struck his colors to Culloden, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line and remained a prisoner until exchanged for a British officer in December 1781.
After the war, Talbot settled in Fulton County, N.Y. He was a member of the New York Assembly in 1792 and 1793 and served in the federal House of Representatives from 1793 to 1795. On 5 June 1794, President Washington chose him third in a list of six captains of the newly established United States Navy. Before the end of his term in Congress, he was ordered to superintend the construction of the frigate President at New York. He commanded the Santo Domingo Station in 1799 and 1800 and was commended by the Secretary of the Navy for protecting American commerce and for laying the foundation of a permanent trade with that country.
Captain Talbot resigned from the Navy on 23 September 1801 and died at New York City on 30 June 1813.
The first Talbot (Torpedo Boat No. I5) was named for Lt. John Gunnell Talbot; the second and third Talbots (Destroyer No. 114 and DEG-4, respectively) were named for Capt. Silas Talbot.
The first Talbot (Torpedo Boat No. 15) was laid down on 8 April 1897 at Bristol, R.I., by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.; launched on 14 November 1897; and commissioned on 4 April 1898, Lt. (jg.) William R. Shoemaker in command.
Talbot cruised down the coast, making calls in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina before arriving at Havana, Cuba, on 2 August. She reported to the flagship and received mail for the blockading squadron. At 2100 hours that evening, while en route to Key West for coal, she sighted the dark hull of a ship off the port bow. Talbot signalled and stopped her engines, but was still rammed by the tug Uncas. The bow of the tug penetrated one foot into the torpedo boat's coal bunker, bending in two frames and crushing the side plating to below the water line. The tug towed Talbot to Piedras Cay where temporary repairs were made the next day to enable the damaged ship to proceed to Key West.
Talbot reached Key West on the 5th and got underway 10 days later for New York. She arrived at the New York Navy Yard on 6 September and was ready for sea again in early October. The torpedo boat was then assigned to the Naval Academy for duty supporting midshipmen training, mooring at Annapolis on 10 October. On 11 June 1899, Talbot moved to Norfolk to participate in a one-year evaluation of experimental fuel oils. At the completion of this test program, she resumed her duties at the Naval Academy.
Talbot was decommissioned on 20 February 1904 and attached to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Norfolk. She was recommissioned on 31 August 1906 and assigned to special duty between Norfolk and Annapolis. From early 1908 to September 1911, she served at the Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I. On 22 September 1911, Talbot was reassigned to Indian Head, Md., for service as a tender. Before assuming the new duty, she proceeded to Norfolk for her annual inspection and was found to be unfit for further naval use.
Talbot was inactivated on 1 May 1912 but retained, "in service," as a ferryboat to be operated between the Washington Navy Yard and the naval facilities at Indian Head. When she arrived at Washington, she was manned by a civilian crew and made an average of three trips a week between the two points. Talbot was renamed Berceau on 11 April 1918 and reclassified a ferry boat. On 17 July 1920, she was designated YFB-3. She remained on ferry duty until 18 June 1940 when she was placed out of service and towed to Philadelphia.
Berceau was struck from the Navy list on 18 July 1944 and sold for scrap.