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Two unknown American Sloop of War captains meet unusual and tragic ends.


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I found both of these brief, yet sad recollections of the deaths of two young American naval officers in the book "Surgeon of the Seas: The Adventurous life of Surgeon General Jonathan M. Foltz in the Days of Wooden Ships." by Charles S. Foltz.

 

After an Argentine Schooner of War had seized a neutral American merchant ship in November, 1844, a nearby American squadron consisting of the USS Bainbridge and the USS Congress arrived on the scene, quickly freed her, and captured the entire Buenos Aires squadron, all in front of the approving eyes of "warships of many European nations." Commodore Voorhees then released the Argentine naval ships with a warning not to mess with US ships. Doctor Foltz observed:

 

"Captain Newman, of the Bainbridge, committed suicide under the following circumstances. After leaving Rio,  ... he was coming up the harbor, just as day was dawning,  under American colors and a night pennant. A Buenos Ayrean schooner fired at him, fired a second, and a third time, when Captain Newman ordered his main-topsail thrown to the mast.

 

So soon as this was made known to Captain Voorhees of the Congress, he suspended Captain Newman and rebuked him severely, ordering him to hold himself in readiness for court martial. Captain Newman acknowledged his guilt and unmanly conduct, became conscious of his disgrace, and on the ninth instant, threw himself overboard from the brig. He was found with his pockets filled with lead and [he] was buried on shore."

 

 

In December, 1862, the replacement captain of the USS Vincennes, the same sloop of war which behaved so poorly at the Battle of Head of Passes [see my earlier post on the Preble] against the Ram CSS Manassas, also met a tragic end .

 

"... a few days before, Captain Marcy of the Vincennes, a son of Governor Marcy, the late Secretary of War, had been killed by the recoil of a boat howitzer which broke from its fastenings ... he was beloved and respected by all who knew him, and he leaves a wife and three children."

Edited by uss frolick
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Interesting accounts. Bainbridge was actually a brig, sister ship to the unlucky Somers. Both had excessive rigs and both went down at sea (Bainbridge in 1863).

 

On the other, that same Vincennes was the flagship of the US Exploring Expedition under then-Lieutenant Wilkes (the same guy who did the Trent Affair in the Civil War) in the 1840s. In this captain's case, it's doubly unlucky, since the boat howitzers were designed with breeching rope originally, but it was removed from the final design because the recoil wasn't enough to really need them. Might have saved this one's life.

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