USS Albany (1846)

For other ships with the same name, see USS Albany.
Lithograph of USS Albany by Nathaniel Currier
Name: Albany
Namesake: Albany, New York
Builder: New York Navy Yard
Laid down: 1843
Launched: 27 June 1846
Commissioned: 6 November 1846
Homeport: Naval Yard Warrington
Fate: Lost at sea. Last seen 28 or 29 September 1854
General characteristics
Type: Sloop of war
Displacement: 1,064 long tons (1,081 t)
Length: 163 ft 6 in (49.83 m)
Beam: 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m)
Draft: 13 ft (4.0 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Sail plan: Full rigged
Speed: 13 knots[1]
Complement: 210 officers and enlisted[1]
Armament: up to 4 × 8 in (203 mm) guns, 18 × 32 pdr (15 kg) guns

USS Albany, the first US Navy ship with this name, was laid, launched and commissioned in the 1840s, Captain Samuel Livingston Breese in command. It was among the last of the wood sloops powered by sail and saw extensive service in the Mexican War. Before and after its combat service, it conducted surveillance and observation missions throughout the Caribbean. In September 1854, during a journey along the coast of Venezuela, the Albany was lost with all hands on 28 or 29 September 1854. Included among the 250 men lost were Commander James T. Gerry, youngest son of Elbridge Gerry, formerly Vice President of the United States, Lieutenant John Quincy Adams, grandson of the second president and nephew of the sixth, and Midshipman Bennet Israel Riley, son of Brevet General Bennet C. Riley, the former military governor of California during its statehood controversy.

Sloop of War

Albany was one of eight of the US Navy's full rigged, or fully rigged, three masted wooden sloops built in the mid 19th century. Her construction was accelerated so she would be complete for the pending war with Mexico. Although some sloops of war could carry 22 guns, Albany sailed with 20.[2]

Albany was among the last wooden, sail-propelled sloops to be commissioned.[3] The other contemporary wooden, sail-propelled sloops included:

While these ships were laid down, in 184243, the Navy reorganized its administrative structure from a navy of wood and canvas to one of iron and steam.[3] Consequently, USS Constellation, launched in 1854, was the last of the wooden sloops of war to use full sail propulsion.[10] In 1855, the Navy discontinued the office of timber agent, the office responsible for the procurement and preparation of material for ship building, and released the agents responsible for acquisition and preparation of material for planks and masts.[11]

The Albany keel was laid sometime in 1843 at the New York Navy Yard; she was launched on 27 June 1846, and commissioned on 6 November 1846. She measured 163.6 ft (49.9 m) and she had a beam of 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m). Albany had a draft of 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m) and displaced 1,064 long tons (1,081 t), making her an idea ship for coastal patrol and work on the many Caribbean deltas, but unsuitable for ascending the rivers inland. Although Albany was mounted up to 4 8 in (203 mm) guns and 18 32 pdr (15 kg) guns, she launched with only 20 guns.[10] With full rigging, under sail, she could maintain 13 knots.[1]

Service history in War with Mexico

The sloop of war put to sea for her first cruise on 26 November 1846 and joined the Home Squadron—then engaged in operations against Mexican forces—on 8 January 1847 at Anton Lizardo. Soon thereafter, however, she left the Mexican coast for an independent cruise to the vicinity of the Azores. Upon her return to the east coast of Mexico early in March, Albany guarded the transport anchorage at Isla Verde in preparation for General Winfield Scott's operations against Veracruz. During the 9 March amphibious action, Albany carried and landed the reserve elements under Brigadier General David E. Twiggs. Because the Mexican leaders chose not to oppose the landings, Albany saw no combat. Later, on 22 March, the sloop of war sent one of her 8-inch (200 mm)-shell guns and its support personnel ashore to assist in the siege of Veracruz.[12]

Veracruz surrendered formally on 29 March, and Albany then moved to the next objective—Alvarado. The Mexican forces, however, had already abandoned that port; and Lieutenant Charles G. Hunter, commanding Scourge, who arrived first, took possession of the town. Albany soon headed for another target—Tuxpan. She and the other ships of the squadron arrived at the mouth of the Tuxpan River on the morning of 17 April. Capt. Breese—commanding Albany—then formed his landing party of over 1,500 sailors and marines drawn from all ships in the squadron. They embarked in the barges and the six ships chosen to ascend the river and capture Tuxpan. Although Albany herself did not participate in the action, Breese and his landing party did. From 18–22 April, the Breese's force moved up the river, engaged and captured two artillery batteries, destroyed fortifications and military equipment at Tuxpan, and then retired down the river to rejoin the squadron. When the American warships dispersed to various blockade stations along the eastern coast of Mexico, Albany and Reefer remained off the mouth of the Tuxpan River.[12]

Then, after service on the blockade at various other points, Albany arrived off the mouth of the Tabasco River by 13 June. As in the Tuxpan operation, members of her crew joined the expedition. The movement upriver began late in the first dog watch on 14 June. In two days, the American force ascended the river, disembarked the landing force, routed the defenders on the approaches to Tabasco, and captured the town. The Americans remained there until 22 July, when yellow fever and Mexican troops forced the evacuation of the town.[12]

In the meantime, Albany headed home for repairs. She left the Mexican coast on 11 July and arrived in Hampton Roads, Virginia on 6 August. From there, she soon moved north to Boston where she completed her repairs on 27 September. On 10 October, the sloop of war put to sea to return to the Gulf of Mexico and served along the Mexican coast on blockade duty again until March 1848, when she was detached and sent to Venezuela to protect American citizens there during a highly volatile constitutional crisis in that country.[12]

Midshipman controversy

With the Mexican-American War at an end, Albany began cruising the Caribbean-West Indies region. That duty lasted until 12 September 1848, when she returned to Norfolk.[12] During the West Indies cruise, however, John Darien Kell and three other passed midshipmen refused a direct order they considered demeaning: they had been ordered to light a candle to summon the relief attendant, a task generally assigned to a midshipman, not a passed midshipman. The commander brought them up on charges, of which they were convicted and released from the Navy.[13]

Post-war cruises

Between 15 November 1848 and the latter part of 1853, the sloop made three more extended deployments in the Caribbean-West Indies area as a unit of the Home Squadron. On 12 December 1853, Albany set sail from Boston, Massachusetts. In May 1854, the commander had filed a report with the Secretary of the Navy James C. Dobbin that main mast of Albany was unseaworthy.[14] On 20 May, Victor Randolph, the former commander of Albany and now commanding officer (protem) of the Naval Yard Warrington, reported that an appropriate mast had been identified and was ready for the Albany. During the replacement of the main mast, there was also some discussion of the condition of the fore mast. Apparently both were replaced.[15]

Last cruise

Initially, Gerry had instructions to sail to San Juan, Cartagena, and Aspinwall (now Colón, Panama), and Albany set out on 29 June. By 11 August, instructions ordered Gerry to pass along the coast and to investigate a suspicious ship lurking near Saint Thomas. Additional instructions, sent separately, told Gerry to continue patrolling the Windward Islands and Grand Turk.[15]

Inline with its instructions, Albany arrived in Curacao on 7 September 1854, from La Guaira, Venezuela. She stayed in port for two days, and left on the morning of the 9th for Cartagena in Colombia, in what was then called New Granada. A letter from a Curacao correspondent of 19 September 1854 reported that all the crew were well. The ship made an imposing appearance moored in the harbor and, upon leaving port, she saluted one of the forts with twenty-one guns, which was answered, and then saluted a Dutch ship, the corvette Palloo with eleven guns.[16] On 28 September, Commander Gerry sent a report updating his superiors on the cruise, dispatched from Aspinwall.[14] Albany departed Aspinwall, Colombia on 2829 September 1854, intending to sail to New York. She was never seen again.[12]

By the November, reports circulated through coastal cities that there was much "uneasiness felt in Washington in relation to the sloop-of-war Albany," which had not been heard from since 28 September, when she left Aspinwall for New York.[17] By early December, the steamer USS Princeton had returned from searching for the missing sloop, which had not been seen or heard from on any of the channels frequented by ship traffic of the British West Indies.[18] In late December, a report surfaced that the vessel had arrived at Cartagena safely,[19] but this report was apparently in error, possibly generated by the arrival of the report that Gerry had mailed before leaving Aspinwall at the end of September.[15] By this time, the Navy's steam ships were searching the area for Albany.[20] The steamer USS Fulton searched from January to May from Cartegena to Aspinwall, the Bay of Darien, into the Bay of Guatemala, and along the Mosquito Coast.[21] By January 1856, after an exhaustive search of 15 months, the ship was given up as lost.[22]

Family compensation

The Department of the Navy requested an inquiry into the loss, which was passed on to the appropriate Senate Committee.[23] A second craft, USS Porpoise, had been lost in a typhoon while conducting an exploratory cruise of the Bonins, the Ladrones, and the Mariana islands.[24] By resolution of the Senate, a fund was provided for the widows and orphans of the officers, mariners, and seamen of both ships. Furthermore, the appropriate wages were paid to the families (including parents, brothers, or sisters) of the men lost, despite the loss of Nixon White (Purser)'s account books.[25] In the case of Rowland Leach, the ship's carpenter, this amounted to $1559, including $779 for a year's gratuitous pay ordered by the Department of the Navy.[26]

Partial list of the lost

As of 30 June 1854, the crew of Albany consisted of 18 officers, 156 seaman and 23 Marines. It is likely the ship's compliment was little changed when she was lost three months later.[27] The list of officers lost is included in the table below.

James Thompson Gerry, last commander of the USS Albany

Commissioned and Warrant Officers of USS Albany 28 September 1854
Name[28] Rank[28] Biographical Information
James Thompson Gerry Commander b. Aug 1797, New Haven, Connecticut [Note 1] Son of Elbridge Gerry.[29]
John Quincy Adams Lieutenant b. 16 December 1816, (Grandson of John Adams, nephew of John Quincy Adams).[30]
William W. Bleeker Lieutenant New York, New York. Had previously served on USS Brandywine.[31]
Montgomery Hunt Lieutenant b. 1817, New York, New York[32] His wife died a year earlier in Galveston, Texas. His daughter was living in New York City.[33]
Henry Rodgers Lieutenant Born in Washington, DC. Originally entered service on March 11, 1837 and was assigned to Albany in 1854.[34]
Robert Athelstan Marr Acting Master 1817, Faquier County, Virginia. Widow and daughter lived in Philadelphia PA and vicinity
Stephen A. McCreery Surgeon b 1812, Norfolk, Virginia.[35] Widow Mary Bassett Starke McCreery remained in Norfolk until her own death in 1909.[36]
Richard Harwood Cowman Assistant Surgeon Service date beginning 17 September 1852.[37] Married Mary S. Stockett, a daughter of Joseph Noble Stockett, on 4 Nov 1852, in Anne Arundel County, MD.[38][39]
Nixon White Purser Born Macedonia (Summit County, Ohio), 1819. Had been hospitalized for a month in New York City prior to assignment on Albany.[40]
Bennet Israel Riley Midshipman b. 1837, Boston Massachusetts. Son of Brevet General Bennet C. Riley[28]
William Jones Boatswain
William Craig Gunner
James Frazier Sailmaker Had previously served on USS Independence.[41] His wife, a milliner, died in 1894. His only child predeceased him in 1854.
Rowland Leach Ship Carpenter Prepared as a carpenter in the 1830s in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Married 1833. Two of his children named their only children after him. See Rowland Bray (1868-1909), son of Sarah Jane Leach Bray (18311899).[42] Also Rowland Leach (1857?), son of Nathaniel Leach (1830?.[43]
William J. Bond[27] Master's mate
Dexter Brigham[27] Master's mate
Belliger Scott[27] Master's mate
Nicholas F. Morris[27] Captain's clerk


Notes and citations


  1. James Thompson Gerry (17971854) has a cenotaph at the Hale Cemetery, New Haven Connecticut. He was the son of Elbridge Gerry, fifth Vice President of the United States. He withdrew from West Point upon the death of his father. See U.S. Military and Naval Academies, Cadet Records and Applications, 18051908, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; U.S. Military Academy Cadet Application Papers, 1805-1866; Microfilm Serial: M688; Microfilm Roll: 3, File #1-108 and Unnumbered; 1814: James T. Gerry, 1814. Accessed 4 November 2015. (subscription required). See also Charles R. Hale Collection. Hale Collection of Connecticut Cemetery Inscriptions. Hartford, Connecticut: Connecticut State Library. Connecticut Headstone Inscriptions Vol 32, Transcription here. Accessed 4 November 2015.


  1. 1 2 3 USS Albany Association. Ship's Characteristics. 10/06/2014. Accessed 5 November 2015.
  2. Thomas Berner, The Brooklyn Navy Yard, Arcadia, 1999, 9780738556956, pp.21, 127.
  3. 1 2 E.B. Potter,Sea Power: A Naval History. Chapter 11: Navies in Transition (Administrative Changes). Naval Institute Press, Jun 15, 2014. 9781612517674
  4. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Saratoga, Thu Jun 04 13:09:15 EDT 2015 , Accessed 5 November 2015.
  5. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Portsmouth, Mon Aug 24 11:35:39 EDT 2015 , Accessed 4 November 2015.
  6. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Jamestown, Wed Jul 22 14:05:13 EDT 2015, Accessed 4 November 2015.
  7. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Plymouth, Fri Aug 21 09:57:02 EDT 2015 , Accessed 4 November 2015.
  8. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS St. Mary's, Mon Jun 08 07:27:16 EDT 2015 , Accessed 4 November 2015.
  9. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Germantown, Mon Jul 13 09:50:13 EDT 2015, Accessed 4 November 2015.
  10. 1 2 Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Constellation, Mon Jul 13 09:50:13 EDT 2015, Accessed 5 November 2015.
  11. See Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marines, Discontinued Offices and Dismissals. United States. Navy Department, United States. Navy Department. Bureau of Navigation, 1854. p. 127.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Albany (1), Published:Fri Jun 12 06:40:54 EDT 2015 . Accessed 3 November 2015.
  13. The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia, Volume 1, John McIntosh Kell, ABC-CLIO, 2011 9781598843385, p. 336.
  14. 1 2 Adelaide Rosalie Haasse, Index to United States documents relating to foreign affairs, 18281861, Volume 1, Main Mast Unseaworthy. Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1914.
  15. 1 2 3 Haasse, p. 21.
  16. Veritas. "The Dutch West Indies." Weekly Herald [New York, New York] [Oct. 21, 1854]: 335. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. (subscription required)
  17. "Multiple News Items." Bangor Daily Whig & Courier [Bangor, Maine] 13 Nov. 1854: n.p. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
  18. The Weekly Herald (New York, New York), Saturday, December 09, 1854; Issue 49.
  19. Boston Investigator (Boston, Massachusetts), Wednesday, December 20, 1854; Issue 34.
  20. The Boston Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), Saturday, March 03, 1855; Issue 208. Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, District Of Columbia), Monday, March 05, 1855; Issue 13,109.
  21. Haasse, p. 558.
  22. The Daily Cleveland Herald (Cleveland, Ohio), Tuesday, January 08, 1856; Issue 6.
  23. Franklin Pierce, Correspondence with the Senate, To the Senate (re sloop-of-war Albany), 26 February 1855, Congressional Edition, Volume 745, p. 331.
  24. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Porpoise (1836), Mon Aug 24 09:47:26 EDT 2015, Accessed 4 November 2015.
  25. United States. Congress, John Cook Rives (ed), United States. Blair and Rives, 1856, p. 809.
  26. See Probate Records, Rowland Leach (August 1855). Probate Records 16481924 page 5. (Middlesex County, Massachusetts); Author: Massachusetts. Probate Court (Middlesex County); Probate Place: Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  27. 1 2 3 4 5 "Items". The New York Herald. New York. January 3, 1855. p. 2. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  28. 1 2 3 4 Navy Casualty Reports, 17761941, Lost and Wrecked Ships, Explosions and Steam Casualties, p. 5, Fold3 12-003. Accessed 3 November 2015. (subscription required)
  29. Adams Family, Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 12, Harvard University Press, 2015, editor's note p. 20.
  30. PBS. Adams Children. Accessed 4 November 2015.
  31. "Naval and Military World". The New World. J. Winchester. 9: 26. July 6, 1844. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  32. Probate Proceedings, 1830-1865; Author: New York. Surrogate's Court (New York County); Probate Place: New York, New York. (subscription required)
  33. Probate Proceedings, 1830-1865: Montgomery Hunt; Author: New York. Surrogate's Court (New York County); Probate Place: New York, New York . Accessed 10 November 2015. (subscription required)
  34. Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marines. United States Navy Department. 1854. p. 38.
  35. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Register of Cadet Applicants, 18191867; Microfilm Serial: M2037; Microfilm Roll: 1 Stephen McCreery. Accessed 10 November 2015. (subscription required)
  36. Year: 1900; Census Place: Norfolk Ward 2, Norfolk City, Virginia; Roll: 1735; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0088; FHL microfilm: 1241735 and U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600sCurrent [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.(subscription required)and Mary McCreery. Accessed 10 November 2015.(subscription required)
  37. Edward W. Callahan, ed. List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900. New York: L. R. Hamersly, 1901.
  38. Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp. .. Maryland Marriages, 16671899. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000. (subscription required)
  39. Warfield, Joshua Dorsey (1905). The founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland. Kohn & Pollock. p. 95. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  40. Registers of Patients at Naval Hospitals, 18121934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. (subscription required)
  41. Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 11 May 1842, p.2.
  42. Sarah Bray and son, Year: 1880; Census Place: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 553; Family History Film: 1254553; Page: 147D; Enumeration District: 610; Image: 0382 1880 Census and [Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911 Rowland Bray]. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. (subscription required)
  43. Year: 1850; Census Place: Charlestown, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: M432_322; Page: 126B; Image: 258 Family of Rowland and Rebecca Leach 1850 and (subscription required) and U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011, Nathaniel Palmer Leach, and Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 16201988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
  44. Spencer Tucker, Encyclopedia of Mexican American War: A Political, Social and Military history, ABC-CLIO, 2013, p. 88.
  45. 1 2 3 4 5 USS Albany Association. Commanding Officers. 1999. Accessed 5 November 2015.

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