Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

February 6, 2014

First steam warships

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Feb. 5, 1814

Compiled, with comments


New-London, Jan. 3, 1814. We, the undersigned, have this day examined the model and plans of a vessel of war, submitted to us by Robert Fulton, to carry twenty-four guns, twenty-four or 32 pounders, and use red hot shot, to be propelled by steam at the rate of between four to five miles an hour, without the aid of wind or tide.

The properties of which vessel are: That without masts or sails, she can move with sufficient speed; that her machinery being guarded she cannot be crippled: that her sides are so thick as to be impenetrable to every kind of shot—and in a calm, or light breeze, she can take choice of position or distance from an enemy.

Considering the speed which the application of steam has already been given to heavy floating bodies, we have full confidence that should such a vessel move only four miles an hour, she could, under the favorable circumstances which may always be gained over enemies’ vessels in our ports, harbors, bays and sounds, be rendered more formidable to an enemy than any kind of engine hitherto invented.—

And in such case she would be equal to the destruction of one or more seventy-four [gun sailing ships], or of compelling her or them to depart from our waters. We, therefore, give it as our decided opinion, that it is among the best interests of the U. States, to carry this plan into immediate execution. (Signed) STEPHEN DECATUR, JA. JONES, J. BIDDLE.

New-York, Jan. 10, 1814. We, the subscribers, having examined the model of the above described vessel of war, to be propelled by steam, do fully concur in the above opinion of the practicability and utility of the same. (Signed) SAMUEL EVANS, O. H. PERRY, L. WARRINGTON, J. LEWIS.

COMMENT: Those signing the petitions included many of the most distinguished American naval officers of the time, including Stephen Decatur (1779-1820) and Oliver Perry (1785-1819).

“A 2455-ton (1450 tons displacement) center-wheel steam battery, [she] was launched in late October 1814.... The ship was completed in 1815 as Fulton [the First], named in honor of her designer, who had died in February of that year. After running trials under steam power, she was delivered to the Navy in June 1816. Other than a single day of active service a year later, when she carried President James Monroe on a cruise in New York Harbor, Fulton was laid up or...employed as a floating barracks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion on 4 June 1829.... She was the first steam-powered vessel built for the United States Navy.”

Although the “Fulton the First” had a single paddle-wheel at the center of the ship, subsequent paddle-wheel steam warships, with paddles on the sides, could not carry as many guns, and proved vulnerable to cannon-fire from their adversaries.

The first American warship using the modern screw propeller (as well as sails) was the USS Princeton (1843). One of her guns exploded on a cruise in 1844, killing Secretary of State Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Gilmer, and almost killing President John Tyler. Ironclad warships only began (in France) in the 1850s.

Refugee Relief

Utica Gazette: A sum exceeding 500 dollars has been raised in this village for the relief of the sufferers on the Niagara frontier.

COMMENT: This was one of a number of relief projects intended for those whose homes had been lost in the British burning of American towns along the Niagara River in late 1813, notably including Lewistown and Buffalo.

Where is Richard?

If RICHARD CARY, living 20 or 30 miles back of Albany, or in Otsego county, will write a letter directed to T. M. giving information of his place of residence, or call in person at No. 2 Beekman street, New-York, he will hear of something to his advantages. January 26, 1814.

COMMENT: I have been unable to identify “T.M.”, but Colonel Richard Cary (1746-1806), a Revolutionary veteran,. had died in Cooperstown on December 15, 1806, after going bankrupt in 1796. His daughter Anne married William Cooper’s oldest son Richard Fenimore Cooper. Cary is buried in the Cooper family plot at Christ Episcopal Church, next to William’s well beloved daughter Hannah Cooper (1777-1800). As Col. Cary was dying he is said to have whispered that he had one last request to make — “Bury me beside Hannah Cooper; she was the best woman I ever knew and my only chance of Paradise is getting in on her skirts.”

Spinning Invention

I have a Patent Machine for Spinning Wool, on which a woman and a small girl, after a little experience, can spin from 15 to 20 runs a day with the same ease that a common day’s work is performed. Those who wish to purchase will please to call at my shop in Cooperstown, to see the Machine and know the terms. JOSEPH CUSHMAN. February 1, 1814.

COMMENT: This was probably Joseph Cushman (1771-1837), who came from Connecticut, was a merchant in Schuyler Lake until 1815, and died in Chenango Forks. I have not found further information about him.


The bill for filling the ranks, encouraging enlistments, &c. has finally passed both houses of Congress. The House receded from its disagreement to the senate’s amendment so far as it related to an increase in the land bounty, and the senate from its amendments respecting money bounty; so that, as the bill is agreed to, the whole bounty money is $124 to each recruit — 50 on enlistment, 50 on mustering the recruit, and 24 on discharge from service, and the land bounty 160 acres. In this form the bill passed the house of representatives without opposition. – Albany Argus.

COMMENT: Isn’t compromise in Congress wonderful! A big problem (never wholly solved) was how to induce Americans to volunteer for the Army during the War of 1812, and the bounties — in cash and land —were periodically increased.