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Wyandotte I (Screw Steamer)


A city in Wayne County, Michigan, on the Detroit River, 11 miles southwest of Detroit, and a county in the state of Kansas. Both are named for the Native American Wyandotte tribe. The county was established on 29 January 1859 and was the location of the constitutional convention in July of that year which framed the antislavery constitution under which Kansas was admitted to the Union on 25 January 1861.


(Screw Steamer: 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 (q.v.) was commissioned on 27 October 1858, Cmdr. Thomas T. Hunter in command.

Following Western Port's service in that expedition, she 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.

After repairs, Wyandotte was recommissioned on 19 September 1859 and assigned to the home squadron. She spent much of the next year cruising, for the most part in the Caribbean, in an effort to suppress the slave trade. On 9 May 1860, she captured the barque William, a slave ship carrying 570 Africans at the time of her capture, off the Isle of Pines near the south coast of Cuba. She took her prize to Florida and arrived at Key West on the 12th. The ship landed the released people on the 16th, turned the prize over to a United States marshall on the 22nd, and soon resumed her cruising.

During the first weeks of the secession in the mid-and late autumn of I860, Wyandotte guarded and reprovisioned Federal military installations along the gulf coast. On 16 November 1860, she was ordered to protect Fort Taylor, Key West, Fla., while Mohawk watched Fort Jefferson. These actions saved Key West for the Union, permitting its wartime use as the home port of the Gulf Blockading Squadron.

In mid-December 1860, Wyandotte sailed for Pensacola and entered the dry dock in the navy yard there to have her fouled bottom scraped and to receive minor repairs. She was refloated on 9 January 1861 and refused to surrender when Confederate forces took over the Pensacola Navy Yard three days later. Instead, she towed Supply out to sea.

Wyandotte remained in Pensacola Bay performing valuable observation and communication duty. She transported troops from Fort Barrancas, Fla., to Fort Pickens on 10 February 1861 and regularly patrolled the inner shore of Santa Rosa Island to prevent Confederate soldiers from attacking Fort Pickens by land. The vessel took part in the daring nighttime reinforcement of Fort Pickens on 12 April 1861, the day of the firing upon Fort Sumter, S.C. With the outbreak of hostilities, Wyandotte joined the Gulf Blockading Squadron on 17 May 1861. After carrying out patrol and transport assignments, she proceeded to the New York Navy Yard for major repairs on 23 August 1861.

On 5 December 1861, Wyandotte departed New York, bound for Port Royal, S.C., and duty with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. There, she was dispatched to Tybee Island, Ga., for reconnaissance work on 19 December 1861 and then was transferred to the blockade off Wassaw Sound, Ga., on 23 February 1862. Wyandotte returned to Port Royal in late April  and proceeded to the blockade off Mosquito Inlet, Fla., on 12 May. She returned to Port Royal in July, sailing to New York a second time for extensive repairs on 25 July.

Wyandotte left the navy yard on 1 September 1862 for duty in the Potomac River with the Potomac Flotilla. She was reassigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Hampton Roads on 7 October, deploying off Fort Monroe, Va., as a guard vessel. On detail, Wyandotte salvaged valuable supplies from the schooner Marie Banks, wrecked off Cape Henry light, Va., on 10 February 1863. She was repaired at the Norfolk Navy Yard and got underway again on 11 April to resume blockade duty. However, badly strained, the vessel could no longer withstand rolling seas and was condemned as only fit for guard duty on 3 October 1863. She spent the remainder of the war off Norfolk.

Wyandotte was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 3 June 1865 and was sold at auction there on 12 July 1865. She was redocumented for merchant service on 23 September 1865 but was stranded when she ran aground off Duxbury, Mass., on 26 January 1866, damaged beyond economical repair.

James L. Mooney

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

28 February 2024

Published: Wed Feb 28 11:34:04 EST 2024