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USRC Onondaga (1898)
USCGC Onondaga (CG 5)
USRC Onondaga, ca. 1914
Career (United States) Flag of the United States.svg
Name: USRC Onondaga
Namesake: Lake Onondaga, New York[1]
Operator: U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, 1898–1915
U.S. Coast Guard, 1915–1923
Awarded: 30 March 1897[2]
Builder: Globe Iron Works, Cleveland, Ohio,[2][3]
Cost: US$193,800[2]
Yard number: 72
Completed: 13 August 1898[2]
Commissioned: 24 October 1898[4]
Decommissioned: 1 January 1923[5]
Fate: Sold for scrap, 16 September 1924[5]
General characteristics [4]
Displacement: 1,190 long tons (1,210 t)
Length: 205 ft 6 in (62.64 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Draft: 13 ft 2 in (4.01 m)
Installed power: Triple-expansion steam engine
Speed: 16 knots (max)
Complement: 73
Armament: 4 × 6-pounder rapid fire guns (1915)

USRC Onondaga was an Algonquin-class cutter built for the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service for service on the Great Lakes. Because of the Spanish-American War, she was cut in half shortly before completion and transported to Ogdensburg, New York for service on the Atlantic coast although the war ended before she could be put into service. After the formation of the United States Coast Guard in 1915 she became USCGC Onondaga. She served as a patrol vessel at various Atlantic coast ports before World War I and unlike most Coast Guard cutters during World War I, she remained under the control of the Commandant of the Coast Guard. After the war she patrolled for a brief time based at New London, Connecticut before being de-commissioned in 1923.


The United States Revenue Cutter Service cutter Onondaga was built at Cleveland, Ohio in 1898 by the Globe Iron Works. She was a steel-hulled vessel equipped with a triple-expansion steam engine, Scotch boilers, and a single screw. She was one of the first RCS cutters built with electric generators to supply current for lights and call bells.[1][6] Before Onondaga could be completed, she was transferred to U.S. Navy control because of the outbreak of the Spanish-American War on 24 March 1898 and the contractor was directed to cut the ship in half for transport to Ogdensburg, New York. She was reassembled and was finally accepted for service by the government 13 August and returned to Department of the Treasury control on 17 August at the conclusion of hostilities. She was placed in commission 24 October at Ogdensburg and ordered to report for duty at Boston, Massachusetts.[2][4]



After Onondaga arrived at Boston, she received winter cruising orders to patrol the area from the St. Croix River to Nantucket Shoals. During February 1899, she was tasked with breaking ice in the harbor at Sullivan, Maine.[2] On 8 December 1899, she received orders transferring her to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a patrol area set from Great Egg Harbor to Fort Monroe, Virginia including Delaware Bay. While stationed at Philadelphia, she also had a temporary assignment escorting Marine Hospital Service ship Senator from Hampton Roads, Virginia to Havana, Cuba in June 1900. In September 1900 she was temporarily assigned to Galveston, Texas. Onondaga was also utilized to cover other RCS cutter's patrol areas when they were laid up for repairs.[2] On 1 July 1902, Onondaga conveyed Maine Senator William P. Frye and party from New York City to Portland, Maine.[2] On 7 April 1904, she received orders to return to Galveston, Texas and tow USRC Galveston to the Revenue Cutter Service Depot at Curtis Bay, Maryland for major yard repairs.[2][Note 1] On 10 December 1904, the tug Boyer collided with the stern of Onondaga necessitating extensive repairs at Kensington Shipyard Company, Philadelphia. Repairs were completed 7 February 1905 and she sailed for Norfolk, Virginia to patrol for the remainder of her winter cruise.[8] On 11 November she was notified that all winter patrols were to be based out of Norfolk while summer patrols were conducted out of Philadelphia.[8] After 13 April 1907, all patrols were based out of Norfolk with occasional temporary duty at Tompkinsville, New York while the cutters normally stationed there were in shipyards for repairs.[9] On 29 October she had a wireless telegraph installed at Norfolk[10] On 7 June 1909, Onondaga was placed out of commission at the RCS Depot for repairs. She sailed without commission to Norfolk for additional repairs and returned to the RCS Depot 30 September. Repairs were completed 6 November and with re-commissioning she returned to normal patrol duties.[10] On 6 March 1910, USRC Mohawk assisted by Onondaga towed the abandoned waterlogged four-masted schooner Asbury Fountain to Norfolk, Virginia after she suffered a collision with SS Jamestown.[11] On 23 May 1912, she was at Philadelphia representing the Revenue Cutter Service at the convention of Permanent International Association of Navigation Congresses.[10] On 9 May 1913, Onondaga received Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo and party aboard for a cruise from Baltimore, Maryland to Richmond, Virginia.[12] At the outbreak of World War I, 5 August 1914, Onondaga was authorized for duty in enforcing neutrality laws in the Chesapeake Bay area.[12] On 19 October 1914 she was placed out of commission at the RCS Depot for overhaul and the crew was transferred to the RCS Academy training vessel, USRC Itasca[13] When the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the United States Life-Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard on 28 January 1915, she became known as USCGC Onondaga, a United States Coast Guard cutter.[14] She was re-commissioned 29 January 1915 and her crew was returned from Itasca. During the summer of 1915, Lieutenants Elmer F. Stone and Norman B. Hall of the Onondaga proposed to use aircraft to increase the search capabilities of the cutter in locating overdue fishing schooners. With the approval the commanding officer, Captain Benjamin M. Chiswell, they flew scouting missions in an airplane loaned to them by a representative of the Curtiss Aeroplane Company.[15][16][17] On 16 October 1915 she was assigned a winter patrol area from Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with a homeport of Cape Lookout, North Carolina[13] The next year on 17 October her patrol was changed to the area from Cape Romain, South Carolina to Cape Canaveral, Florida with a homeport of Savannah, Georgia. She patrolled this area until being recalled to the USCG Depot 31 March 1917. On 5 April Onondaga was decommissioned in preparation to being transferred to the Navy for service in World War I.[13]

World War IEdit

After 6 April 1917, the Coast Guard was placed under the control of the Department of the Navy by executive order; however, Onondaga was unique among the cutters in the Coast Guard in that she was never assigned to a naval district commandant but instead received her orders directly from the Commandant of the Coast Guard. After re-commissioning on 18 May 1917, she sailed for New London, Connecticut where Captain Frederick C. Billard, also superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, took command of her. Onondaga was used to convoy vessels turned over for use by the Coast Guard during the war from one port to another and to transfer personnel between units.[18] She also was used to train newly recruited enlistees and cadets at the Academy and for towing disabled vessels to shipyards for repair.[19][20]

On 20 February 1918 she rescued the entire crew of the British steamship SS Veturia after she foundered on Diamond Shoals off the North Carolina coast. Captain Billard maneuvered Onondaga close by the grounded Veturia in heavy seas and dense fog and one of the small boats from Onondaga made seven trips rescuing the stranded crew of the grounded ship. Captain Billard and his crew received a commendation from the British Admiralty. The owners of the Veturia, Gow, Harrison and Company, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, expressing appreciation for the rescue.[21] While on patrol near Montauk Point on 13 March 1918, she came to the aid of SS Kershaw, taking some of the crew off the stricken ship and placing them aboard USRC Tuscarora.[5]

Post-war service and de-commissioningEdit

On 28 August 1919 the Coast Guard was returned to Department of the Treasury control. Onondaga continued patrol operations based out of New London until 1920, at which time she transferred to Baltimore. She continued to operate out of Baltimore until 1 January 1923, when she was placed out of commission at the Coast Guard Depot for repairs.[5] Funding for needed repairs was never received and her condition gradually deteriorated to the point where she had to be sold for scrap.[22] She was sold 16 September 1924 to Charles A. Jording of Baltimore for US$7,840.[5][Note 2]


  1. The major overhaul of Galveston also included a name change. She was renamed Apache 30 December 1904[7]
  2. Colton claims that after being sold Onondaga was converted to a barge.[3]
  1. 1.0 1.1 "Onondaga, 1898", Cutters, Craft & U.S. Coast Guard-Manned Army & Navy Vessels, U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Record of Movements, p 51
  3. 3.0 3.1 Colton, Tim, "Globe Iron Works, Cleveland Ohio",, Shipbuilding History
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Canney, p 56
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Record of Movements, p 57
  6. Evans, p 158
  7. Canney, p 49
  8. 8.0 8.1 Record of Movements, p 52
  9. Record of Movements, p 53
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Record of Movements, p 54
  11. King, p 143
  12. 12.0 12.1 Record of Movements, p 55
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Record of Movements, p 56
  14. "U.S. Coast Guard General Order No. 1", Historic Documents & Publications, U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
  15. Register of the officers, vessels and stations of the United States Coast Guard, August 1, 1915, U.S. Government Printing Office, p 58
  16. Evans, p 188
  17. Larzelere, pp 137–138
  18. Larzelere, p 93
  19. Kroll, p 113
  20. Larzelere, p 97
  21. Larzelere, pp 98–99
  22. Johnson, p 67
References used

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