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SS Douglas (1858)
SS Douglas (I)

1862—1864: Margaret and Jessie

1864-1879: USS Gettysburg
Owner: 1858–1862: IOMSPCo.
Operator: 1858–1862: IOMSPCo.
Port of registry: Douglas, Isle of Man
1862-79: United States Navy
Builder: Robert Napier & Co., Glasgow.
Cost: £17,500 (£1,572,940 as of 2021)[1], plus an allowance of £5,000 (£449,411 as of 2021)[1]from Napier's for King Orry (I)
Way number: 20683
Launched: 28th May, 1858
Completed: 1858
In service: 1858
Out of service: 1862
Identification: Official Number 20683
Code Letters H C F T
ICS Hotel.svgICS Charlie.svgICS Foxtrot.svgICS Tango.svg
Fate: Sold to Cunard, Wilson and Company, who were acting as brokers for Confederate Agents Fraser, Trenholm and Co. Captured as a blockade runner by the U.S. Navy, and commissioned as the Gettysburg.
Status: Scrapped
General characteristics
Tonnage: 700 gross register tons (GRT)
Length: 205 ft 0 in (62.5 m) (later increased to 221 ft 0 in (67.4 m))
Beam: 26 ft 0 in (7.9 m)
Depth: 14 ft 0 in (4.3 m)
Installed power: Nominal horse power believed to be 260 shp (190 kW).
Propulsion: Side Lever Engine driving twin Paddles
Speed: 17.25 knots (32 km/h)

PS (RMS) Douglas (I) No. 20683 - the first ship in the line's history to be so named - was an iron paddle steamer which served with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company until she was sold in 1862.

Construction and dimensions[edit | edit source]

Douglas was built by Robert Napier & Co. in Glasgow in 1858. Napier's also supplied her engines and boilers. Her purchase cost was £17,500, plus an allowance from Napier's of £5,000 for the King Orry.

Douglas had a tonnage of 700 GRT; length 205'; beam 26'; depth 14' and a service speed of 17 knots.

The first Steam Packet steamer with a straight stern, no fiddle bow and no figurehead.

Service life[edit | edit source]

Longer and faster than her forerunners, Douglas was built to help meet the steady increase in passenger traffic to and from the Isle of Man. Said to of achieved over 17 knots (31 km/h) on her trial trip and then to have crossed from Douglas to Liverpool in 4hrs 20mins.

Douglas was claimed to be the fastest steamer then afloat. She attracted wide attention, and her speed made her a strong candidate for more advanced adventures.

While in the Steam Packet's colours, the only event of interest - apart from the way she broke the record for the home run - was her collision with the brig Dido, which cost the Company £400 (£33,556 as of 2021)[1] in damages. At one time she was chartered to Hendersons of Belfast for three weeks for the then notable fee of £200 (£16,778 as of 2021)[1] per week.

Sale and subsequent life[edit | edit source]

After only four years in Steam Packet ownership, Douglas was sold to Cunard, Wilson and Co., who were really acting as brokers for the Confederate Agents, Fraser, Trenholm and Co. for £24,000 (£2,000,175 as of 2021).[1]

Repainted in grey, she was renamed Margret and Jessie, and she made an ideal blockade runner in the American Civil War. She was then owned by the Charleston Import and Export Company, but was gunned down and driven ashore by a Union gunboat near Nassau on June 1, 1863. A few days later she escaped although damaged, went back to blockade running and was later captured. Some records maintain that after she was driven ashore and had escaped to Nassau, she took no further part in the American Civil War and her engines were said to be seen rusting on the Nassau beach as late as 1926.

The official history of the ship in the library of the Department of the Navy, Washington D.C., clarifies the conflicting reports.

The vessel did go back to work, and was captured as a blockade runner on November 5, 1863, and bought by the navy from the New York Prize Court, and commissioned as the USS Gettysburg on May 2, 1864, at the New York Navy Yard. She had been armed with a 30-pounder Parrot gun, two 12-pounders, and four 24-pounder howitzers. Her tonnage was now given as 950 and she was apparently lengthened by 16 feet to 221 feet. When commissioned, she had a ship's company of 96. She joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and captured several ships which were running supplies to the South.

On December 24, 1864, Gettysburg took part in the notable sea-to-shore attack on Fort Fisher, assisting in the heavy bombardment, coming close in to cover troops landing for the actual assault, and using her boats to carry troops to the beaches. She was in action again three weeks later when the assault was repeated and was successful, this time in association with land forces. For the remainder of the Civil War the paddle-steamer went back to her blockade duties.

She was on active service in 1868, protecting American interests in the Caribbean, helping to lay submarine cables and doing survey work. In 1875 she did important work for the Hydrographic Office, compiling navigation charts of the seas of the West Indies. In November, 1876, she set off for Europe and spent two years doing surveys in the Mediterranean, taking observations along the entire coats of Italy, as well as the south of France, the Adriatic islands, and the coasts of Turkey, Egypt and North Africa. In the course of this duty, the U.S. Navy record states that she visited every port on the Mediterranean.

On April 22, 1879, she rescued the crew of a small vessel that had hit the rocks outside Genoa.

After such an exhausting life, Gettysburg's plates were corroded from 21 years of almost uninterrupted service and her machinery was weakened.

She was decommissioned on May 6, 1879, and sold two days later.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2013), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  • Chappell, Connery (1980). Island Lifeline T.Stephenson & Sons Ltd ISBN 0-901314-20-X

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