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US Frigate Boston, 1799: "Probably the swiftest sailing ship in the world."


uss frolick
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I found this letter years ago in the National Archives Microfilm Rolls. Dated December 31st, 1811, Washington Navy Yard Commandant, Captain Thomas Tingey, wrote his report to Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton. He had been ordered to survey the hulls of the Frigates Boston and New York, then in ordinary in the yard, to see if they could be repaired for service. The nation was spiraling towards war with Great Britain, and the US Navy needed every ship of war it could get.

 

"Sir,

 

The master and the foreman of the ships carpenters , having been asked to re-examine the state of the Frigates New York and Boston - have reported the following as to the state of the Frigate New York:

 

The whole of the floor timbers and first futtocks are of white oak - twenty six of the floors (being those in the extreme ends) and the whole of the first futtocks must be replaced with new. The 2nd and 3rd futtocks and top timbers are of live oak, cedar and locust, and appear tolerably sound, particular(ly) those of live oak. The fore and the after end of the keelson, all the ceiling, decks, beams knees, together with the Wales, upper works and part of her bottom plank, will require to be new. Probably a few of the knees may answer again, or be better fitted in a smaller ship.

 

Of the Boston, they state that, the whole of her frame being white oak, "consequently a great part is rotten, but being a better quality than that of the New York", her floors and first futtocks appear to be in a better state. The 2nd and 3rd futtocks, and the top-timbers, stern frame, hawse pieces and breast hooks must be new, together with most of her ceiling, all of her beams, knees, decks, upper works and part of her bottom plank.

 

Maturely considering the foregoing report, and from my own knowledge of the state of those ships, I am clearly of the opinion that, to repair them completely,  (having no dock for that purpose), it would cost full as much, as to build new ships of equal rate. I therefore respectfully recommend that the New York be broken up, and a new ship built to repair her. But inasmuch as the form of the bottom of the Boston, is worth preserving (being probably the swiftest sailing ship in the world), I cannot hesitate to recommend that she be repaired, not withstanding the extent of the expense." 

 

As this is respectfully submitted, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, Your Obt. Servt., Thos. Tingey"

 

Note that although both ships were only twelve years old, both were completely used up. Such was the poor quality and temporary utility of northern white oak for ship-building. But the hull form of the Boston was so impressive that Tingey desperately wanted to preserve it. This implies that the navy did not possess a copy of her draught at that time, even though a copy of her builders draught was found in the National Archives. 

 

 

Edited by uss frolick
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