NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 11, 2013

Two USS Newburyports, but neither saw action

About the time of the start of the Civil War in 1861, the Navy Department purchased a sailing vessel and named it the USS Newburyport. It was the Navy’s intention to use the boat as a supply ship.

Soon after its acquisition it was discovered that there were serious defects in the hull that rendered the ship unfit for naval duty. As a result of the problem, the ship was assigned to the Navy’s Stone Fleet. The fleet consisted at the time of about 20 older ships and like the Newburyport no longer safe for sea duty. The ships of the fleet were loaded with stone and towed to a point near the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, S.C., where they were scuttled one after another to form a blockade of the harbor. This action did hamper enemy naval operations there during the war.

The second USS Newburyport was built during World War I at the L.H. Shattuck shipyard in Newington, N.H. It was a 274-foot steamer. It was designed as a cargo carrier and with a crew of 56 was intended to transport supplies to the troops serving in Europe.

The ship was christened on Aug. 15, 1919, by Mrs. David P. Page, wife of then Newburyport Mayor David P. Page. Many Newburyport men, including my grandfather, were employed in the ship’s building and many of their family members attended the christening ceremonies.

However, because the war had ended several months before this, the Newburyport was no longer needed by the Navy and never placed into active service and eventually ordered to be demolished. So much for the life of the second ship named in honor of the Clipper City.

In 1996 then Mayor George H. Lawler petitioned the Coast Guard to have a new cutter then under construction named the “City of Newburyport.” Locally it was felt that the city’s close ties to the Coast Guard, including the fact of its being the Coast Guard’s birthplace, would be a favorable factor resulting in positive action on Mayor Lawler’s request.

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