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Western Port (Gunboat)


The Navy retained the name carried by this steamer at the time she was acquired. 

(Gunboat: tonnage 464 (gross register) speed 7.0 knots; armament 4 32-pounders, 1 24-pounder Dahlgren howitzer)

The screw steamer Western Port, built at Philadelphia in 1853was chartered by the Navy Department in the autumn of 1858 to participate in a U. S. naval expedition up the Parana River to Asuncion, Paraguay. After she had been fitted out as a gunboat, Western Port was commissioned on 27 October 1858, Cmdr. Thomas T. Hunter in command.

Western Port soon sailed for South American waters and, at Montevideo, Uruguay, joined the ships commanded by Flag Officer William Branford Shubrick which had been assembled to support the negotiations of U.S. Commissioner to Paraguay, James Butler Bowlin. President Franklin Buchanan had appointed Bowlin to seek redress for the shelling of U.S. steamer Water Witch in 1855 which had resulted in the death of the ship's helmsman.

Shubrick's squadron  stood out from Montevideo on 30 December 1858 and ascended the Rio de la Plata and the Parana and the Paraguay Rivers. It arrived off Asuncion on 25 January 1859, and Bowlin went ashore to conduct negotiations that succeeded in winning an apology for the United States and a large indemnity for survivors of the slain sailor. Bowlin also signed a new commercial treaty between the United States and Paraguay.

After the conclusion of the negotiations, Western Port returned to the United States and was decommissioned on 28 May 1859. She was purchased by the Navy Department on 6 June 1859 and, on 14 June 1859, was renamed Wyandotte (q.v.)

James L. Mooney

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

27 February 2024

Published: Wed Feb 28 08:15:27 EST 2024