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USS Niagara (1855)

USS Niagara (1855)

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The second USS Niagara was a steam frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

 in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

.

Niagara was launched by New York Navy Yard on 23 February 1855; sponsored by Miss Annie C. O'Donnell; and commissioned on 6 April 1857, Captain William L. Hudson
William L. Hudson
Captain William Levereth Hudson, USN was a United States Navy officer in the first half of the 19th century.-Career:Hudson was born 11 May 1794 in Brooklyn...

 in command.

Transatlantic telegraph cable, 1857–1858


Niagara sailed from New York on 22 April 1857 for England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, arriving Gravesend
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...

 on 14 May. A log of the ship's voyage across the Atlantic was kept by the correspondent of the New York Daily Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, where it was published on Thursday, 14 May 1857. On arrival in England Niagara was equipped to lay cable for the first transatlantic telegraph
Transatlantic telegraph cable
The transatlantic telegraph cable was the first cable used for telegraph communications laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It crossed from , Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland to Heart's Content in eastern Newfoundland. The transatlantic cable connected North America...

, which was to follow the shallow tableland discovered between Newfoundland and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 by Matthew F. Maury. By 11 August, when a break in the cable defied recovery, she had laid several hundred miles westward from Valentia Island
Valentia Island
Valentia Island is one of Ireland's westernmost points, lying off the Iveragh Peninsula in the southwest of County Kerry, Ireland. It is linked to the mainland by the Maurice O'Neill Memorial bridge at Portmagee, as well as by a ferry which sails from Reenard Point to Knightstown, the island's...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. She returned to New York 20 November and decommissioned 2 December to prepare for a second essay at cable-laying. Recommissioning 24 February 1858, Captain William L. Hudson in command, she sailed 8 March, arrived Plymouth
Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

, England, 28 March, and experimented with . The ships returned to Plymouth to fit out, then made a mid-ocean rendezvous on 29 July, spliced their cable ends, and each sailed toward her own continent. On 5 August, Niagara's boats carried the end of the cable ashore at Brills Mouth Island, Newfoundland, and the same day Agamemnon landed her end of the cable. The first message flashed across 16 August, when Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 sent a cable to President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

. This first cable operated for three weeks; ultimate success came in 1866.

Voyage to Africa, 1858


Niagara's next mission was the carrying of 200 Africans, liberated from slave
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 brig
Brig
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and manoeuvrable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries...

 Echo off Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 by the brig on 21 August, to Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

. She sailed with them from Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

 on 20 September, reached Monrovia
Monrovia
Monrovia is the capital city of the West African nation of Liberia. Located on the Atlantic Coast at Cape Mesurado, it lies geographically within Montserrado County, but is administered separately...

 on 9 November, and returned to New York on 11 December, decommissioning there on 17 December 1858.

Voyage to Japan, 1860–1861


Niagara recommissioned on 14 May 1860, Captain William McKean
William McKean
William Wister McKean was an admiral in the United States Navy during the American Civil War. He was noted for his service in the Union blockade that effectively closed Confederate seaports in the Gulf of Mexico....

 in command. Another unique assignment awaited; she was to carry Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

's first diplomatic mission to the United States
Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860)
The was dispatched in 1860 by the Tokugawa shogunate . Its objective was to ratify the new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the United States and Japan, in addition to being Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the United States since the 1854 opening of Japan by Commodore...

 from Washington to New York, and then home. Leaving New York on 30 June, Niagara called in Porto Grande
Porto Grande
For São Vicente's main port, see Porto Grande, Cape VerdePorto Grande meaning large port) is a municipality located in the southeast of the state of Amapá in Brazil. Its population is 14,675 and its area is 4,402 km²...

, Cape Verde Islands; São Paulo-de-Loande (now Luanda
Luanda
Luanda, formerly named São Paulo da Assunção de Loanda, is the capital and largest city of Angola. Located on Angola's coast with the Atlantic Ocean, Luanda is both Angola's chief seaport and its administrative center. It has a population of at least 5 million...

), Angola
Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

; Batavia (now Djakarta), Java; and Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

. The frigate entered Tokyo Bay
Tokyo Bay
is a bay in the southern Kantō region of Japan. Its old name was .-Geography:Tokyo Bay is surrounded by the Bōsō Peninsula to the east and the Miura Peninsula to the west. In a narrow sense, Tokyo Bay is the area north of the straight line formed by the on the Miura Peninsula on one end and on...

 on 8 November to land her distinguished passengers, then sailed on 27 November for Hong Kong, Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

, and Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

, returning Boston on 23 April 1861 to learn of the outbreak of the Civil War.

Civil War, 1861–1864


Quickly preparing for duty on the blockade of southern ports, Niagara arrived off Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

 on 10 May, and two days later captured blockade runner General Parkhill attempting to make Charleston from Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. Through the summer she gave similar service at Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, lying within the state of Alabama in the United States. Its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier island on the western side. The Mobile River and Tensaw River empty into the northern end of the...

, and was at Fort Pickens, Florida on 22 September when Flag Officer William McKean in Niagara took command of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. She engaged Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 defenses at Fort McRee
Fort McRee
Fort McRee, was a historic military fort constructed by the United States, on the eastern tip of Perdido Key, to defend Pensacola and its important natural harbor...

, Pensacola, and Warrington on 22 November, and was hulled twice above the waterline. On 5 June 1862 she sailed for repairs at Boston Navy Yard
Boston Navy Yard
The Boston Navy Yard, originally called the Charlestown Navy Yard and later Boston Naval Shipyard, was one of the oldest shipbuilding facilities in the United States Navy. Established in 1801, it was officially closed as an active naval installation on July 1, 1974, and the property was...

, where she decommissioned 16 June. Recommissioned 14 October 1863, Niagara steamed from New York on 1 June 1864 to watch over Confederate warships then fitting out in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. She reached her base at Antwerp on 26 June, and from there roved the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

, the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 Atlantic Coast and the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

. On 15 August she took steamer Georgia
CSS Georgia (cruiser)
CSS Georgia was built in 1862 as the fast merchantman Japan. The Confederate States Government purchased her at Dumbarton, Scotland, in March 1863. On April 1, she departed Greenock, reputedly bound for the East Indies and carrying a crew of fifty who had shipped for a voyage to Singapore...

, a former Confederate warship, off Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

. In February and March, with she lay at Ferrol, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, to prevent Confederate ironclad Stonewall from departing, but the much more powerful southern ship was able to make good her escape.

Niagara patrolled with the European Squadron
European Squadron
The European Squadron, also known as the European Station, was a part of the United States Navy in the late 19th century and the early 1900s. The squadron was originally named the Mediterranean Squadron and renamed following the American Civil War...

 until 29 August when she cleared Cadiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

for Boston, arriving on 20 September. There she decommissioned on 28 September 1864, remaining in the Boston Navy Yard until sold on 6 May 1885.

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USS Niagara (1857-1885)