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A first look at the Frigate John Adams, 1799-1829


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This past spring, ussfrolic reached out to me about collaborating on a project with the US frigate John Adams. He got me access to a copy of a design draught for her and I duly reconstructed it from there. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple months since then and hadn’t started the proper thread for it. At frolic’s prompting I’m finally getting it started. He’ll fill in more of the background in following posts.


I intend to do more with the drawings, including an attempt to illustrate later versions of the ship, including the sloop and jackass frigate years. I also found spar dimensions for her as of the Barbary Wars, so I’ll be drawing a sail plan as well. The bare hull isn't entirely finished yet either, there’s still a few bits here and there missing, but it’s overall complete. I suppose “fitted out” would be a better term…


I reconstructed the steps, side lights from a deckplan that showed them, the bridle ports, and the head and waist rails. I’m going to fiddle with a couple different designs for the rails as far as waist and forecastle, but this is a start.


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A Quick Note: The above plan was reconstructed from two plans, both in the Peabody and Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, in the Josiah Fox papers.


1. Outboard Profile/Inboard Profile (partial) of the frigate as designed and sent to the Frigate Committee in Charleston, SC, in 1799.


2. All Decks drawn atop one another circa 1807, 1/8th scale, as a razee, but showing main deck port positions, the addition of the bridle ports, all mast positions, hatch locations, iron ballast placement, and the five foot hull length added in Charleston, as reported.


I'll add more data when I can.


Thanks Talos !!!!!!!!!! :)




Another quick note: I should also point out that the body plan of the lines exists somewhere in the National Archives, but it was published in P.C. Coker's most-excellent book "Charleston's Maritime Heritage, 1670-1865". Since all other lines are derived from the body plan, that is all one would need, in addition to the above two plans, to reconstruct the frigate. And of course the stacked deck plan shows the shape of the hull as an added check, in showing the general shape of the waterlines.

Edited by uss frolick
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USS John Adams Chronology (From one of my earlier posts):


1799: Frigate with twenty-four long twelve pounders on the gun deck and two twelves, bow chasers, and six 24-pound carronades on her spar deck. She retained this form when she fought with Commodore Morris Squadron, bombarding Tripoli, firing at gunboats, and engaging and destroying the 26-gun Lateen rigged Frigate Meshuda fighting alongside the USS Enterprize. She did a lot of fighting during this service. She had a bust figurehead carved by William Rush of Philadelphia. She was the first US Navy ship to carry carronades.


1804: converted to a store ship when she joined Preble's squadron off Tripoli. Gun deck full of cargo with eight long six-pounders on her quarterdeck and six long twelve pounders in the Waste of her spar deck! This would have required her having been converted to a mini-double-banked frigate! The rest of her guns were in the hold, but her carriages were scattered among other ships.


1807-09: Converted to a 24-gun flush decked corvette carrying twenty-two 42-pounder carronades and two long twelve pounders. No poop deck. Fox wrote in a letter stating that he intended to replace the bust with a scrolled fiddle head. The watercolor appears to show this. At some unknown point in her history, she received a bust head of John Adams again. Her replacement ship had one.


1811-12: Reverted back to a frigate in j.a.c.k.a.s.s frigate form in Boston, carrying thirty lighter carronades and two chase guns. No forcastle!


1813-14 Converted back to a corvette of 22 guns: armament varied in port, but they settled on 42-pounder carronades again by her 1814 sailing. Differed from 1809 version by having a 17-foot long quarterdeck (poop) cabin with a flush roof. This appears the ship shown in the watercolor. Note the sailor dudes on it. Retained this form until her breaking up and replacement in 1829.

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From an earlier post:


There is a contemporary watercolor painting entitled "American Corvette" by William John Huggins. She is a flush decked corvette with a long rail-less poop and topgallant forcastle deck with 12 guns a side, exclusive of the broadside ports. I am 99% sure that it is of the John Adams, and I date the painting to her diplomatic mission of 1809-10. You can see it on the NMM site. 

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From an earlier post:



In 1812, after the JA have been converted to a fine fast and powerful flush decked corvette, William Banibridge ordered her upper works put back on so that he could have another frigate in the stable. The only benefit was the addition of eight 18-pouinder carronades to the new quarterdeck. She was so unstable that her 42-pounder main deck guns had to be swapped out for 32-pounders, and her two chase guns were reduced to nine-pounder and were placed on the lower deck since the new mini-forecastle couldn't take the weight.  These changes caused indignation amongst the officer corps, who new well the old ship. Master Commandant Charles Ludlow took the j.a.c.k.a.s.s frigate on her maiden voyage on September 7, 1812, and wrote to the Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton:


"I had a very good opportunity to try the sailing of the ship, and conceive it my duty to report the same. She cannot pass for more than a tolerable sailing merchant ship, and so crank that a ship of 20 guns ought to take her, in what would generally be called a topgallant breeze for ships of war."


This means that her main deck gun ports were under water!


Captain Ludlow continued:


"When I took command of this ship from Captain (Joseph) Tarbell he insured me that it was his intention  to apply to the department for orders to rejoin the ship again and wished me not to make any alterations. I have not made any of any consequence, but if Captain Tarbell is not to have her ... (which I will give up with much pleasure) I shall be under the necessity of applying for a survey of the ship, and trust can make it appear, that as a corvette, she will answer as a vessel of war, but at the present, she is unworthy of the name AMERICAN SHIP OF WAR, and I shall very reluctantly  hazard the reputation of her officers and that of the service; in her present state; she will be considered by the public; and particularly with any vessel she may have to contend with, as a 32-gun frigate, when she mounts 32 guns." 


Captain Ludlow was of a great and influential naval family, he having a brother  then serving as purser on the Constitution, and another brother Augustus Ludlow, destined to be the gallant, slain first lieutenant of the USS Chesapeake, of who the latter of which, many towns in the US would be named. (Ludlow, Vermont, for example.) Yet, he felt inclined to add:


"With due deference I have made the above report, and hope I have not exceeded the bounds of rectitude."


The report worked, and the JA sat out most of the war stripped of her guns in New York until the summer of 1814, intended as a 'harbor ship' for the defense of the port.

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From an earlier post:



The John Adams became whole again in early 1813. It is possible that the JA never had a full forecastle deck installed in 1812, just a short platform called a "topgallant forecastle deck" for conning, as well as the armed quarterdeck, since that is the definition of a j.a.c.k.a.s.s. frigate: a frigate with no forcestle.


A confidential letter written by the new Secretary of the Navy William Jones, to Master Commandant William Crane, dated  April 16, 1813:


" ... You will proceed immediately to Baltimore and take command of the United States Ship John Adams, destined by the President, for a special and confidential service and in order to render her fit for service it will be necessary to cut down her topsides and reconvert her into an efficient corvette, as she was previous to her last repair and outfit at Boston.


About 16 or 17 feet of the after part of the quarterdeck and the topgallant forecastle will be retained, but without armament, or any thing above other ... other [than] the crane irons and ridge ropes. Her armament will be twenty heavy 12-pounders and four long 18-pounders."


Keep the cranes, Crane!


The confidential mission was to have been a raiding mission around Cape Horn on to the Oregon/Canadian coast to destroy the British settlements, and to protect the American presence in the northwest. Long guns would be needed to bombard any land settlements, if they chose not to go quietly. Politically connected millionaire John Astor was to accompany the expedition, since he had financed the American settlements already there. And so the ship was fitted out in the best possible fashion, and she was ordered to carry only the highest quality stores. The plan was cancelled when Crane and the ships' entire crew was instead sent on emergency status to Lake Ontario.


Crane had practical problems with the desired armament:


"The long 18-pounders in the yard are so badly made that they will not stand the proof. One burst on Lake Ontario and one burst yesterday. The 12-pounders are short, heavy, clumsy pieces, not of which will clear the stern ports." Fox was known to have decreased the rake of the JA's stern when she was razeed in 1807-9, but she might have still retained an excess stern rake, so much so that the guns couldn't reach all the way out. 


Crane wanted 32-pounder carronades, but they could only have been transported from the foundries in Maryland and Philadelphia by sea, and the British blockade was too tight.


Crane was unable to enlist a full crew in New York either, in another letter to the SecNav dated May 4, 1813.:


"I discover a very strong prejudice in the seamen against the John Adams."


Since the ship had been repaired and fitted for the tastes of Mr. Astor, it was decided to send her off on a diplomatic voyage. The retention of a long piece of the quarterdeck was probably to house Astor and his staff.  On February 5, the JA sailed under Master Commandant Samuel Angus to England carrying "Peace Commissioners" Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell, to try and negotiate the end to the war. On the way back, the JA was to bring her namesake's son, Diplomat John Quincy Adams, home.


John Quincey Adams noted in his memoirs on June 13, 1814:


"She (the John Adams) carries twenty-two guns, but is now only half-armed, having but twelve forty-two pound carronades." Presumably the rest of her guns were moved into the hold.


Apparently, Commander Angus suffered several "temporary attacks of insanity" after picking up Adams off the Texel, and even tried to pick a fight with two small British brigs of war on August 25, 1814, even though the JA was flying the flag of truce. The commander of one of them, the 10-gun HMS Helicon (only 18-pounder carronades), noted that the John Adams was a razeed frigate, she had all her guns mounted, and was painted all black.


Her consort was the 16-gun ex-French HMS Achates (24-pounders). That would have been an interesting battle!


CORRECTION, CORRECTION! HMS Helicon's consort was HMS Scylla, 18 guns, with 32-pounder carronades, a Cruiser Class Brig, not HMS Achates.

Edited by uss frolick
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From yet another bloody earlier Frolicky post:



Here's a first hand account of the John Adams's encounter with Helicon and Scylla, from "Naval Adventures: Thirty Five Years of Service" , Volume 1, by William Bowers, London, 1833:


"Not long after, in company with the Scylla, eighteen, about two hundred miles west of Scilly, we descried a large ship under heavy press of sail, steering about W by N, She was painted black, showed no guns or colours, other than a small white flag at the foremast,, which, with the manner which she shortened sail, and backed her maintop sail, keeping the fore sail and jib on her, after we had whipped a few shot across her bows, impressed us with being a merchantman. I proceeded to board her, and on pulling up in her wake, was struck with her breadth of beam, and warlike cut of her canvass. When close upon her quarter, I hailed her, and was given to understand she was the United States Ship John Adams, having on board the American Envoy from the Texel, bearing the proposals for peace, and with an Admiralty passport. The captain at the same time invited me on board, pledging his word of honour, that I should not be detained. On this I pulled up and mounted the side. To my astonishment, as I was about to step on deck, I found the whole crew at their guns prepared for action,the matches burning, and the men with the train tackles in hand prepared for running out the guns. This corresponded so little with the peaceful declaration I had just received, that, not choosing to risk my own honour and the fate of the two vessels, I instantly jumped into the boat and returned to report what I had seen. By this time the Scylla was on her weather quarter and her commander, a fine veteran of the old school, being senior officer, I reported to him what i had seen.. He replied, 'Bear a hand onboard your ship,  tell W_____ to keep his jib boom on my tafferail, and we will soon see who he is.'  few minutes later, both brigs ranged up on his weather beam, as close as we could without danger of falling on board, and with a voice roaring like an old lion, Darby then hailed ordering to send an officer with his passport. This being complied with, and all being found correct, I returned with the American first lieutenant, a fine young fellow,and was received very cerimoniously.


On entering the cabin, I was introduced to the Envoy, Mr. Dallas, refreshment was offered and I am almost ashamed to say refused,however, a young man might be excused if. influenced by a national sentiment, and in a hurry of movement, he should overlook those nice shades of conduct, which should guide him according to time, place and circumstance ... The American Captain expressed himself hurt at the cavalier and impervious manner inwhich he was hailed by the English commodore, as he styled him.  I assured him nothing offensive was intended, but it was his natural manner, being a plane rough seaman. This ship had been a frigate, now raz'ee, and mounting twenty  forty-two pounders and two long twelves, with a crew of three hundred men."


I don't consider Captain Samuel Angus to have done anything wrong, having cleared for action when two English sloops of war were bearing down on her, and firing shots across his bow! It was certainly not  a bout of "temporary insanity" as John Quincy Adams termed it. Must have been more to that story.


I also note that the John Adams's bulwarks must have been high indeed for her gun crews not to have been seen until she was boarded by an English officer! Obvioulsly, her half ports were in place.


Nowhere can I find the name of the JA's first lieutenant who so impressed Lt. Bowers of HM Brig Helicon.  :(

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The John Adams was very useful to the early navy as a flush corvette. So much so, that the specifications for the ten 1816 "Gradual Increase" sloops - the Boston/Concord Class - were to the dimensions of the old John Adams. But she was too small to carry long 24-pounders, even if only medium 24-pounder columbiads.


Of all the subscription frigates, only the John Adams was built out of Southern Live Oak, (by accident of geography, as she was built in Charleston) and so she outlived all the others. The old Frigates Boston and New York, built of inferior north-eastern white oak, were found too rotten by 1808 to be worth repairing, but the JA lasted until 1829 with almost constant service.

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I poked around this evening, searching for Navy Registers for the lieutenant. I had a candidate, even wrote up an entry from a register in 1905, then realized he was 1st Lieutenant of the corvette Adams, not the corvette John Adams, in 1814. I also looked at a hearing about James Barron (of Chesapeake-Leopard fame) who was discharged and doing commercial work in Europe during the war. He tried to hitch a ride on John Adams back to the US in 1814 to "help" the Navy.


With regards to Angus' mental instability, his 1840 obituary talks about it some. It's how he got summarily discharged without a hearing.



May 29 – At Geneva, NY, aged 56, Captain Samuel Angus, formerly of the US Navy. He was born in Philadelphia in 1784, entered the service of the US at the age of 15 years; was promoted, in 1807, to the rank of Lieutenant, in 1813, to that of Master-Commandant, and, in 1816, to that of Captain. He was several times severely wounded; in 1800, in an action between the Constellation and the French frigate La Vengeance; and soon after in an action between the schooner Enterprise and a French lugger; in 1812, in an attack upon the English opposite to Black Rock, and afterwards while commanding the Flotilla on Delaware Bay. He was selected by Messrs. Adams and Clay, commissioners for forming a treaty, which was afterwards concluded at Ghent, to convey them to Europe. “Although impaired in mind and debilitated in body by the injuries he had received in the public service, he still continued to discharge the duties of his rank, till, suffering a temporary derangement of mind produced by the severity of his wounds, he address to the head of the Navy Department a letter that was considered disrespectful, for which he was dismissed, without trial, from a service which his courage and generosity had honored. Those, who knew him, always admired him as an able and intrepid officer, as a generous and devoted friend, and an ardent patriot.”


I did find that the John Adams' muster and pay rolls for 1814 are in the National Archives, as seen here. http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/military/navy-records-1789-to-1925.htmlYou might be able to drop them an email and have a researcher look it up. it should be easy for them to do.

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From document called 'FOX 773', in the Josiah Fox Papers in the Peabody and Essex Museum collections, a comparison of the three 12-pounder 28-gun US Frigates Adams, John Adams, and Boston, noted as A, JA and B, respectively:


"Length on gun deck from fore part of rabbet of stem to after part of wing transom [in feet, inches, half inches]:


128.4 A / 127.9 JA / 133 B.


Breadth extreme including both wales:


35 A / 33.3 JA  / 35.6 B


Depth of hold from limber streak:


15. 6 1/2 A / 16.10 JA  /  17.1 B


Height betwixt berth and gun decks:


5. 6 1/2 A  /  5 . 10 1/2 JA /  5.9 B


Height betwixt gun and spar decks:


6.10 A /  6.4 1/2 JA  / 6. 3 B


[Note: The above dimension shows that the JA was still a frigate when this document was written, probably 1807.]


Draught of water when dimensions were taken Forward:


 13 A  / 11.1 1.2  JA  / Blank B



Draught of water when dimensions were taken Aft:


 17. 7 A  / 13  JA  / Blank B


Breadth at Wing Transom including wales:


24.4 A  / 21.  JA  / 22. 6 B


Number of Ports exclusive of Bridle ports:


24 A / 24  JA / 24 B


Height of lower ports cills from deck:


1.10 1/2 A  / .7  JA  / 26 [obviously an error!] B


Ports fore and aft in the clear:


2.6 1/2  A  / 3.3  JA  / 2.6  B


Ports up and down in the clear:


2.2 A  / Blank JA  / 2.3  B


Number of ports on quarterdeck:


6 A / Blank JA  / Blank  B


Number of ports on forecastle:


4 A / Blank  JA /  Blank B  [This figure would have been useful!. But the JA might have still been fitted out as a double-banked store ship at this time.]


Forepart of foremost port from forward:


13. 8 A  / 11.  JA  / 12. 8 B


Afterpart of aftermost port from Ditto:


121.3 A  /  121 . 3 JA  / 126.11  B


Gundeck ports from foreside to foreside:


9.6 1/2 A  / 9 10 1/2  JA  / 10.2  B


Number of gun deck beams:


23  A  / 22  JA  / 23  B


  ditto sided:


1.1  A  /  1.2  1/2  JA  / 1.1  B


  ditto moulded:


1.0  A / 1.2  JA  /  1/0  1/2  B


More to come ....

Edited by uss frolick
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Interesting sheer plan and comments/quotes above, gentlemen.


I assume the small rectangular shapes along the side above the wale are ventilation scuttles? If so, they seem to be placed tight against the deck level indicated. Is this correct? Usually they are lower, to clear the deck clamps.

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Thanks, druxey!


I believe they are supposed to be skylights, actually. I based their height below the deck above on identical ones visible on the Essex and Boston draughts. You can see those on this comparison I'm uploading. The second Macedonian at the bottom also has them, while Chesapeake has scuttles. Essex's draught in Chapelle has them labled skylights.


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"FOX 773" continued.


Anyone contemplating the construction of the Boston should take note. Although the lines survive of her, the deck plan does not. So you could use the tabular data here to reconstruct it.



Number of berth deck beams:


   15   A /    20 JA /    22   B


(Note: The Boston must have been a stronger ship with seven more berth deck knees than the Adams! The John Adams's berth deck knees were dove-tailed into the clamps without knees, when launched, in the French fashion. )




    1. 0 A /    1. 1/2JA /    1 .1  B




    1.1  A /    1.0 JA /     1.0  B


Center of fore mast from forward:


    23.4  A /    17.10. JA  /  18 .6  B


Center of fore mast do


    71.  A /    75.4 JA  /    78 .6  B


Center of Mizen mast do.


  107  . 6 A /   109 .10 JA  /   116  .3  B


Bowsprit bits asunder:


    1.6  A /    1.6 JA  /     1.5 1/2  B


Bowsprit bits square:


    .10 1/2   A /    .11 1/2 JA  /    1 .0 1/2  B


Fore Most Cable bits from forward:


   17 . 11  A /    27.3 JA  /     30 8.  B


  Ditto asunder:


    3. 4 A /    6.7  JA  /     4.3 1/2  B


  Ditto square:


    1.1  A /    1.1  JA  /    1 .4 1/2  B


After cable bits: from forward:


    34.10  A /   blank . JA  /    blank  .  B


  Ditto asunder:


    5.  A  /  blank  . JA  /   blank  .  B


  ditto square:


    1.1  A  /    blank . JA  /    blank  .  B


Fore Hatchway Length:


   4 .11  A /    6.7  JA  /     10.10  B


  Ditto Thwartships:


    6. 6 A /   5 . 11 JA  /    7 . 4 B



Main Hatchway Length:


    11. 9 A /   7 .6  JA  /    9 .6  B


  Ditto Thwartships:


    6.6  A /    6.7 JA  /    7 .6  B



After Hatchway Length:


    4. 6 1/2 A /   5 .4  JA  /   10 .7 1/2   B


  Ditto Thwartships:


    6.  A /    5.4 JA /    7 .6  B



Companion Hatchway Length:


    4.4 1/2  A  /   4 .4 JA  /  blank   .  B


  Ditto Thwartships:


    6. 0 A /   3 . 9 JA  / blank    .  B

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Anyone have thoughts about some of the figureheads of the subscription frigates. Do descriptions survive?


Frolick discusses the Essex figurehead in another thread here. http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/3272-the-two-possible-sterns-of-the-frigate-essex/?p=93243


As I recall, John Adams had a carved figurehead of the politician, which was later replaced by a fiddlehead before being restored and then transferred to the replacement sloop of war like Macedonian's. I believe William Rush carved both John Adams' and Philadelphia's figureheads, the latter of which was a figure of Hercules (The ship of the line Pennsylvania built after the War of 1812 got a Hercules figurehead too).


By the years leading up to the War of 1812, cheaper and more durable fiddleheads were the order of the day on most ships.

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An account of the figurehead survives, from The American Daily Advertiser, June 5, 1799:


" A life-like bust portrait of of John Adams ... and which is said to be a great likeness of the President of the United States, arrived from Philadelphia some days ago, and is now placed on the frigate; it is from the masterly chisel of Mr. [William] Rush of the city, whose elegant productions have long placed him at the head of his profession."


Nice joke: "Head of his profession"!


This was the only subscription frigate known to have had only a bust figurehead, perhaps for economy reasons.


The stern carvings, whose descriptions do not survive, were created by the local Charleston firm of Cotton and Stattler, of Mott Street.


The JA had her bust removed in 1807 when converted to a corvette, and replaced with a classic fiddlehead, but when the ship was entirely replaced in 1830, the original bust, or an exact replica carved by Rush, was placed back on her. A drawing of it survives on an 1850-ish inboard profile drawing in the National Archives (which I sadly do not have), but it was reproduced in "American Figureheads and Their Carvers, by Pauline A. Pinkney, NY, Norton, 1940.


Just for comparison, here is what they put on the head of the similarly sounding Frigate Adams in New York, in 1799 (from the NH Gazette, June 4, 1799.):


"On the head of the ship is the figure of the President, represented in the attitude of addressing both houses of Congress. In his left hand is his scroll, supposed to be his address, - his right hand is raised in a spirited position, as if in the act of bidding defiance to the enemies of America - at his side is a branch of oak springing from a rock, emblematic of his firmness and patriotic virtues, in support of the rights of his country."


Descriptions of the stern carvings of the USS Adams and the USS Maryland survive, so perhaps the John Adams' were similar:


"1. USS Adams, 28 gun frigate launched in in New York from the New Hampshire Gazette, June 4, 1799:


"On the stern in the centre of the taffrail, are the arms of the U. States, supported by Sybele and Neptune - the latter with his left hand resting on his Trident and his right extended over our "Infant Navy", with some Attributes of Commerce. The former reclining on a sheaf of wheat with a septre in her right hand, in her left is the Key of the Earth and Supporting a Cornucopia ..." 


2. USS Maryland, 24 gun subscription-built ship-sloop of war, built in Baltimore , from the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Register, June 4, 1799:


"On the Taffrail is the Seal of Maryland, representing the figure of Justice and Peace with proper insignia; It is supported on the right by a Genius with a book and pen preparing to record the honors  the ship may confer on her country, while on the left the Genius of Music is ready to strike his lyre in celebration of the rising greatness of America."


And just for jollies, the Frigate USS Constellation and USS President:



3. USS Constellation, 36 gun frigate built in Baltimore, from the Federal Gazette, September 17, 1797:


"The center is a large sphere with a constellation inserted, resting on a massy pedistal of an artificial form, with the fasces inlaid in the panel, emblematic of the Union and on the great basis on which our government rests; three large volumes and a Scroll, representing the three branches of Government and the Constitution, is reclining on the side of the Pedistal, and the Eagle and Arms of the United States on the other. Next are two of the Cardinal Virtues, Fortitude and Justice introduced as the supports, attributes indispensible with the happiness, honor and independence of a nation. Next to the figure of Fortitude on the Starboard side, is the figure or emblem of order, joined to the emblems of Industry and Agriculture ; supported by Ceres, the Goddess of Agriculture on the starboard quarter-piece ..."


4. USS President, 44-gun frigate, built in New York, from Claypole's American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, April 14, 1800.


"Stern: In the center of the taffrail, the figure of America the right arm resting on the base of a monument and three books representing the three branches of government; in the right hand a pen, to record the heroic actions of her sons; in her left, the Constitution of the United States; at her feet, the American Fasces erect, supported by the standards of the Army and the Navy. On her right the figure of Wisdom, and the left the figure of Strength, both inclined, and looking to the center; in the right hand of Wisdom, a spear, the left resting against the port, and the bird of vigilence at her feet.; the left hand of Strength resting on a herculean club, the right hand resting against the port as the grand supporters of America ..."

Edited by uss frolick
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Just for jollies he says. ;) You sir are an amazing treasure trove of information. My sincerest gratitudes. Btw I thought the John adams stern was in that watercolor archive posted a ways back. The one with St louis and the rather unspectacular uss Congress? Let me know I can repost it. :)

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Report of Naval Constructor Josiah Fox, to Captain Thomas Tingey, Washing Navy Yard, August 26, 1807:


"...Having had the John Adams opened in her upper works, etc, where decay was most visible, find that the greater part of upper deck beams, many of the knees,  and a considerable portion of her upper works are in either a decayed or decaying state.  Two of the gun deck beams, only, have been found injured by decay; The frame chiefly of live oak and some cedar, is in a very sound state, as are also her wales,  bottom plank, ceiling, lower deck, together with the magazine, sail room and bread room, which are places most subject to decay.


This ship, from the over proportion of weight in her upper works, etc, is found to be very unfit for a frigate, experience has proved that she is very tender when under sail, sails heavily and steers bad, and that the weight of her upper works occasions her to strain very much at the wales, occasioning the bolts to work loose, and consequently cause considerable leakage."


First of all, it seems odd initially that Fox would find such fault in the design of the frigate, considering that he designed her! But the Charleston Frigate Subscription Committee back in 1799 was so concerned that the John Adams would draw too much water to sail over the port's notorious bar, that they altered her lines to make her more buoyant, and draw less water: They redrew her body lines plans with fuller, more rounder floors. This worked, but it made her roll too much. The frigate's forecastle and quarterdeck was converted into a spar deck , and was also raised and strengthened in 1804 to allow eight long 12-pounders to be mounted in her spar deck waist, because the gun deck was loaded up with supplies for Preble's squadron. The letter continues:


"To remedy those defects in her construction, and render her a valuable and likewise a formidable  ship, I take the liberty to recommend the expediency of cutting off (what i call in this instance) superfluous weight aloft, and make her into an elegant corvette, proposing to equip her with 24 42-pounder carronades on he gun deck only, by which mode of equipment, I conceive she be rendered more formidable than at present, as her round of shot [broadside] would weight 1008 pounds, whereas at present it weighs 336 pounds only. Her repairs (if what I recommend here is adopted) would cost not half of what it would take to repair her upper works, etc,  and could be effected in 1/3d of the time. She would be made a better sea boat in every respect. The accommodations of her officers and men would be found ample, as well as the hold for stowing provisions, water, cables, and other stores,. She would be enabled to carry her guns a good height from the water, bear a greater press of  of sail, sail faster, and the hull stronger, and kept in repair at much less expense than she has hitherto been ..."

Edited by uss frolick
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So you are saying that this is the 2nd John Adams aka of the Vincennes/Boston class?  That is plausible given the detailing though unfortunate.  So no information regarding her stern detailing survives then? The Lenthall sketch mentions 1859 however the Constitution wouldn't have looked that way by then no? Is that the date the watercolor was made?  Also would that then mean that the ship below is the Congress of civil war fame rather than the 1799 ship?


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Oh, there goes CharlieZ again: "Have a closer look at my stern, ladies!" Or is it "my futtocks"? :)


Moving on ... It looks like a bust cameo of President Adams in the center taffrail, atop a stack of arms and flags, with a laurel wreath in the center and wreathed stars on either quarter... Works with me, for either sloop.

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It's certainly the later sloop, the  original sloop would have had a more stereotypical stern like the other frigates. The Perry and Lawrence weren't launched until the 1840s, after John Adams was rebuilt. St Louis there is another one of the three designs for the 1820s sloops, she's out of scale with the other drawings. Congress' looks like the replaced version of that frigate too, though flattened out (it's a round stern) and missing the quarter galleries.

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Well the Constitution pictured there is definitely not from the 1840's. I'm unsure because by the 1820's the Potomac class was in service and ship designs were altered to the more streamlined designs, like Constitution which shares the same stern as the Java class and the original Potomac. It is wholly possible that John Adams was simarily upgraded and stern altered to a modern one (by 1830's standards) before she was broken up and fully rebuilt.  Though my opinion is leaning to the pic represents the rebuilt ship as well.  I am curious if someone decides to tackle the task of building a model of John Adams on this forum what their approach will be... wink wink ;)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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The rebuilt JA is a very good modeling subject. She was one of only a few sloops of that period to actually go into action. She still carried her twenty-four medium 24-pounders too: In 1838, she and the Frigate Columbia sailed half way around the world to bombard and burn two Islamic (go figure!) Sumatran pirate strong-holds: the cities of Kuala Battoo and Muckie, in what became known as Commodore Reid's Second Sumatran Punitive Expedition.

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Much like the Syren/Wasp, but because she had quarterdeck cabins and a flush poop deck, her two stern chase ports were glazed in windows, and the John Huggin's watercolor "American Corvette", painted probably during her diplomatic mission to England, 1809-10, shows that she retained her frigate's quarter-galleries, and that her poop deck extended right up to the mizen mast.

Edited by uss frolick
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Progress report, Fox to Tingey, December 17, 1807:


"... In answer to your inquiries of this day relative to the state of forwardness of the John Adams; there yet remains to complete her repairs; five strakes of wales to shift on each side and two strakes of the bottom under them; the gun deck waterways and two stakes next them to put in; a small part of her waist in board to plank. Stern to be built from her transom upwards; her gun deck to repair; one beam to be put in (which is nearly ready0 and two others to repair, new cable and bowsprit bits, and head to be built; and a few places to repair depending on the forgoing; if time will allow, her lower deck, ought to be kneed an better secured than it has ever been; and finally to be hove down and new coppered, and all work progresses with all the expedition in our power; having but few carpenters employed on her ..."

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