Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Wateree I (SwGbt)

(SwGbt.: t. 974; l. 205'0"; b. 35'0"; dph. 11'6"; s. 10 k.; a. 2 100-pdr. P.r., 49", 4 24-pdr. how., 2 13-pdrs., 2 12-pdr. r.)


The first Wateree, a sidewheel gunboat, was built at Chester, Pa., by Reany Son & Archbold; launched on 12 August 1863; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 January 1864, Comdr. F. E. Murray in command.

Assigned to the Pacific Squadron, Wateree departed Philadelphia soon after commissioning. During the next 10 months, she made the arduous voyage around Cape Horn to the Pacific. In addition to struggling against the heavy weather for which the Cape region is noted, the warship experienced difficulty acquiring fuel. That problem necessitated her making numerous stops along the way to acquire wood for her boilers; and, as a result, Wateree did not reach San Francisco, Calif., until mid-November 1864.

Upon her arrival there, the ship entered the Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs to damage she suffered during her arduous voyage and for a hull scraping. She did not leave San Francisco until late February 1865 when she put to sea to patrol the coast of Central America. During 1866, American naval forces in the Pacific were divided into a North Pacific Squadron and a South Pacific Squadron. Wateree was assigned to the latter unit, whose patrol area extended south from Panama to Cape Horn and west to Australia. For the remaining two years of her brief naval career, Wateree patrolled the coasts of Central and South America, protecting American interests in that region.

On 15 August 1868, while she was in port at Arica, Peru, a devastating earthquake struck the city subjecting Wateree and the other ships in the harbor to several massive tidal waves. The last wave broke the side-wheeler gunboat's anchor chains and drove her ashore almost 500 yards inland from the normal high water mark. Too badly damaged for economical repair, the ship was sold to Mr. William Parker on 21 November 1868. Apparently her hulk was converted to living spaces ashore, and the former warship served as an inn for some years thereafter.

Published: Mon Oct 26 16:16:00 EDT 2015