USRC Kankakee

Name: USRC Kankakee
Namesake: Kankakee River
Operator: United States Revenue Cutter Service
Builder: Westervelt & Son
Cost: $103,000
Launched: 15 Sep 1863
Completed: Nov? 1864
Decommissioned: 1867, prior to 28 May
Renamed: Kawachi (merchant service)
Fate: Broken up after February 1869
General characteristics
Class and type: Pawtuxet-class cutter
Displacement: 350 tons
Length: 130 ft (40 m)
Beam: 26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)
Draft: 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m) (aft)
Depth of hold: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Propulsion: 1 × two-cylinder oscillating steam engine; single 8 ft (2.4 m) screw
Sail plan: Topsail schooner
Speed: About 12 knots
Complement: 7 × officers, 34 enlisted

USRC Kankakee was a Pawtuxet-class screw steam revenue cutter built for the United States Revenue Marine during the American Civil War.

Kankakee spent most of her brief career with the Revenue Marine operating in and around Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Apart from her normal revenue cutter duties, she was used as a transport for customs officials and later for testing safety apparatus.

After less than three years as a revenue cutter, Kankakee was sold in 1867 due to dissatisfaction with her machinery. Later voyaging to Japan, where she was renamed Kawachi, she was broken up on or after 1869.

Construction and design

Kankakee was one of six Pawtuxet-class screw schooners ordered by the Treasury Department in 1863 for the United States Revenue Marine. She was built in New York City by J. A. Westervelt for the sum of $103,000, and launched on 15 September 1863.[1]

Kankakee was 130 feet (40 m) long, with a beam of 26 feet 6 inches (8.08 m) and hold depth of 11 feet (3.4 m).[2][3] Draft is uncertain but was probably around 6 feet (1.8 m).[4][a] Like the other ships of her class, her contract called for a hull of oak, locust and white oak, strengthened with diagonal iron bracing.[1]

Kankakee was powered by a two-cylinder, geared screw, oscillating engine with 36 inch bore, 30-inch stroke and 10-inch steam cut-off, built by J. & R. I. Gray at their New York facility, the Phoenix Iron Works. Steam, at a pressure of about 22 psi, was supplied by a single tubular boiler. The engine drove a single 8-foot diameter, 12-foot pitch screw propeller geared upward at a ratio of 3:1, delivering a speed of about 12 knots.[3]

A fatal accident involving Kankakee occurred while her engines were being installed at the foot of Horatio Street, North River on June 1, 1864. While Kankakee's smokestack was being hoisted in, the steamboat Mary Powell passed by, the wash from which caused the smokestack's supporting guys to slip and send it crashing to the deck of an adjacent schooner. Two men were killed by the falling smokestack, and several other persons injured. A coroner's inquest held a few days later concluded that no fault could be attributed, but recommended that in future installations of the type, six guys be used instead of the usual four.[5]

Kankakee was either brig or topsail schooner-rigged for auxiliary sail power. Her armament consisted of a single 30-pounder Parrott rifle, and five 24-pounder Dahlgren guns, including two pivot guns. She had a crew complement of 41 officers and enlisted men.[1]

Service history

Trial trip

Kankakee conducted her trial trip on 1 November 1864, leaving port at 10 am with a number of officials aboard, including the Superintendent of Repairs and Supplies, Thomas B. Stillman, and several officers of the Revenue Marine. During the trial, Kankakee attained a speed of 12 knots, with the engine operating at 36 rpm and the propeller at 108, reportedly making her the fastest vessel of the Pawtuxet class. A New York Times correspondent despatched for the occasion observed that the ship "makes a very fine appearance on the water. She steers beautifully, turning around in a very short space".[3]

After returning to dock at 4 pm, the vessel was met by Collector of Ports Simeon Draper, and a second trip made for his benefit. Draper declared himself "very much pleased" with Kankakee's performance, while the other officials "pronounced unqualifiedly" in favor of the ship.[3]

Revenue Marine service, 186467

Soon thereafter, Kankakee received her commission, but scarcely had she entered service before tragedy struck again. On December 26, Kankakee's commander, Captain Richard A. Marselles, fell overboard while attempting to signal another vessel off Hoboken. Though rescued twenty minutes later, attempts to revive him failed.[6]

In 1865, Kankakee, now under the command of a Captain Baker, voyaged to the Southern States with two agents of the Treasury Department tasked with setting up a system of customs for the ports of the recently vanquished Confederacy. After calling at Mobile, Alabama and Havana, Cuba, Kankakee arrived at Charleston, South Carolina on 27 July for coaling before returning to New York. The Customs office at Charleston, meanwhile, was said to be "rapidly assuming a prosperous aspect".[7]

By September, Kankakee was homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.[8] The following month, Kankakee arrived at Fort Monroe with the schooner Hannah Matilda under tow, which had lost her sails.[9] On February 9, 1866, Kankakee spoke the ship Grey Eagle, laden with coffee from Rio Janeiro, and supplied her with provisions.[10] On the 24th, Kankakee, now under the command of Captain George Slicer, was reportedly preparing to transfer to Philadelphia, while the revenue cutter Mocassin was set to take over Kankakee's duties in Virginia waters.[11]

In February 1867, the crew of Kankakee suffered another misfortune when one of the ship's firemen was knocked down by a tender in Grand Street, Manhattan, reportedly suffering serious injuries.[12] In April, Kankakee was utilized by the Commission on Life-Saving Apparatus to test a number of different designs for detaching and lowering lifeboats. "The merits of a fog-horn" were also tested.[13] Captain Slicer of Kankakee was later thanked for his assistance to the Commission.[14]

Later service

By this time, the Revenue Marine had decided to rid itself of a number of the Pawtuxet-class cutters on the basis that their engines were too complicated. Kankakee was consequently laid up, and sold on 28 May 1867. She later voyaged to Japan, where by February 1869 she had been renamed Kawachi.[1][15] Kawachi was eventually broken up.[15]


a See note a in the Pawtuxet-class cutter article.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Kankakee, 1863", U.S. Coast Guard website.
  2. "The New Revenue CuttersThe Launch of Two of Them", The New York Times, 1863-07-10.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Naval News", The New York Times, 1864-11-02.
  4. "Woodbury", Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Naval History & Heritage Command website.
  5. "Two Men Instantly Killed on a Schooner", The New York Times, 1864-06-06.
  6. "Fatal Occurrence", The New York Times, 1864-12-27.
  7. "From Charleston", The New York Times, 1865-08-03.
  8. "From Fortress Monroe", The New York Times, 1865-09-16.
  9. "From Fortress Monroe", The New York Times, 1865-10-10.
  10. "From Fortress Monroe", The New York Times, 1866-02-13.
  11. "United States Revenue Cutters", The New York Times, 1866-02-27.
  12. "Fire in Crosby-Street", The New York Times, 1867-02-27.
  13. "Commission on Life-Saving Apparatus", The New York Times, 1867-04-20.
  14. "The Life-Saving Commission", The New York Times, 1867-05-24.
  15. 1 2
    • Silverstone, Paul H. (1989): Warships of the Civil War Navies, p. 188, Naval Institute Press, Maryland, ISBN 0-87021-783-6.

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/22/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.