In 1813 Robert Fulton proposed to the President of the United States to construct a steamboat which would carry heavy guns, and move at the rate of tour miles per hour, (n 1814 a law was passed authorizing the President to cause to be built and equipped, one or more floating batteries for the defense of the waters of the United States. The harbor and coast defence was committed to a committee, who employed Fulton as engineer, and who laid down the keel of our first navy steamer on the 20bh June, 1814. This was at the shipyard of A. & N. Brown, in this city ; in four months this vessel was launched, and, was named the " Demologos " and " Fulton the First." It was not until June, 1815, that her engine was put in and fitted up completely; on that day she made a short trisl trip ; but on the 4th July succeeding she made a trip of 26 miles out into the ocean. This ship was totally unfit tor navigation, and was laid up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a receiving ship until 1829, when, in a most unaccounta ble manner she was blown up, killing 24 men, I woman, and wounding 19; our first naval steamer was an unfortunate one—as nearly all its successors have been. In 1838 " Fulton the Second" was built for the defence of New York Harbor ; she was made strong and carried a heavy battery, but she too was totally unfitted tor the purpose of ocean navigation She had two horizontal engines, with cylinders of 50 inches diameter, and 9 feet stroke, which were built at the West Point Foundry , and cost $40,198 57. Her boilers were of copper, and cost $93,396 06—an enormous amount of money. Her total cost was $299,649 91. This vessel lay at tha Brooklyn Navy Yard a useless hulk, until 1 851 when Chief Engineer Stuart was direated to re-construct it entirely. The old engines ? mara takan onti, aim JiiB_mppar-_bpilejSL-Ag; single inclined engine built by H. R. Dunham & Co., along with iron boilers, were put in at a cost of $75,909. By statistics of this vessel's performtuice, obtained from Stuart's splendid work on Naval Sfceatners, it appears that she made as high a speed as 20 miles per hou For this extraordinary speed we cannot account—her engine and model would not lead us to believe that 3he could make such time as,upon good authority, it is stated she has made. The three "Fultons" had paddle-wheels. In 1842 Lieut. Hunter, U. S. N, took out a patent for a new submerged wheel for the propulsion of steamers, and upon the strength of some experiments made with a small boat on the canal, at Washington, the Government ordered a vessel named the " Union," of 1000 tons burden, to be constructed at the Norfolk Navy Yard ; to test this wheel on a large scale. This wheel was a submerged paddle-wheel, revolving horizontally in a case under water. This vessel was employed for about 18 months in the Gulf of Mexico—had two sets of engines put in her, and had a number of alterations made in the wheel, and yet never made over 4 knots per hour. In 1846 this vessel waa laid up in the Navy Yard at Philadelphia, her machinery and boilers taken out, and was turned into a receiving vessel, after costing $172,477 60. In 1843, a small iron steamer, named the "Michigan," was built for cruising on the northern upper lakes, and has done gsod service since. The "Mississippi," the flag-steamship of Commodore Perry, in the Japan Expedition was built in 1840, at the Navy Yard, in Philadelphia, and her engines were constructed by Merrick & Town, of thatcity,from designs by Charles W. Copeland, of this city. Her cost was $550,354; repairs in 1852. $94,954. This vessel has side wheels, and has done great and good service to the country; it is believed that she has steamed a greater distance than any mr steamer afloat, and has required but little repairs, and she will last quite a number of years yst. The " Missou- ri," was built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in 1841, from the same lines as the " Mississippi," ind her engines and machinery were constructed, at West Point Foundry, Cold Spring, from designs by Mr. Copeland, Chas. H. Has-well being then engineer in Chief of the U. S. N. Her cost was $593,483 78. On the 23rd of Aug., 1843, this fine steam frigate, was lestroyed by fire, at Gibraltar. She was a fine sailor, and was, in every respect like the Mississippi, only she had a 10 feet stroke, with 62 inches diameter of cylinders, while the cylinders of the former are 75 inches diameter, and the stroke is only 7 feet. The Princeton " was also built in 1843, with Ericsson's engines and propellers. This vessel was a failure, so far as the quality of her hull was concerned, and lasted about six years ; her speed was about six miles per hour with steam alone. Two small steamers (paddle-wheels) named the " Spitfire " and the " Vixen" were purchased by the government during the Mexican war. They have undergone many repairs since, and are of a very interior character. The " Allegheny " was constructed of iron at Pittsburgh, from plans by Lieut. Hunter, in 1847, and fitted with two of the designer's submerged wheels. She was 1,000 tons burden, and 33 feet broad. Her whole cost was $292,053,72, including $10,000 for the patent right of the wheel, a most enormous price indeed, for a small iron steamer. This vessel was sent on a trip to the Mediterranean, and and on her return in 1849, the Hunter wheel waa condemned ; side wheels were recommended, but she was not fit to go to sea again. During 1852 she underwent great alterations, and a propeller designed by Engineer Isher-wood, was substituted for the Hunter wheel-One of Pirrson's condensers was also applied) but none of these changes can bring it up to six knots per hour. In 1850 the "Saranac" was built at) the Portsmouth Navy Yard, N. H., with engines built by Jabez Coney, of Boston, from designs by Charles W. Copeland. This vessel has paddle wheels, maintains a respectable speed, is very efficient, and a credit to the service. ~Thc" 6"n-Ja4"4"-" was eortatiuiKd i"jto same lines as the Saranac, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Her engines were designed by C. W. Haswell, Engineer in Chief U. S. N., and were built in 1850 by Merrick & Son, Philadelphia. She was to be fitted with a propeller by Mr. Haswell, which was to be placed at the one side of the centre line. Before the propeller was put in, Mr. Stuart superseded Mr. Has well, and got a different propeller placed in her. His work says that she run at the rate of 18 miles per hour, in New York Harbor, but these miles must have been exceedingly short. This vessel cost $205,593,-77, and on the whole is considered to have done no credit to the service as yet. The " Susquehanna" was launched from the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1850. The engines were designed by C. W. Copeland, and were built by Murray and Hazlehurst, of Baltimore. Her whole cost was $710,408,00. She has paddle wheels, but has not matched the Mississippi. The"Powhattan" was built at the Norfolk Navy Yard, and was ready lor sea in 1852. Her machinery was built by Mehaffy & Co., Norfolk, under the charge of engineer Sewell, from designs by C. H. Haswell, Engineer in Chief. This is a large steam frigate a fine sailer, and had the San Jacinto been constructed like the Powhattan, with paddle wheels, she would no doubt have done credit to the engineer who designed the engines.— The cost of her engines and machinery was $383,213,68. A " Water Witch the Second" has also been built, using the old engines, but employ-in? Morgan's Paddle Wheel, trom designs by Engineer Isherwood. These wheels do no credit to our engineering genius; they are more expensive, and are no more effective than the old-fashioned radial kind. Three or tour other steamboats have belonged to the Navy—mere tug boats not worth naming.— At the present moment there are only three efficient steam frigates in our Navy, and considering the advancement and improvements made in our mercantile steamships, it is a disgrace to our government. We also assert that we have not a truly respectable steamship in our Navy—one worthy of our country. Our government engineers have been peculiarly unfortunate with the propelltrs which they have built. While the French and English have very fine, large, and swift propeller line of battle ships, we have not a propeller-frigate worth the name. We would adv'se our government to get their steamers built entirely by contract; they pay too much for them. One of the Collins' line cost $736,035, only $25,627 more than the Susquehanna, and is about one third larger. There is something rotten in the system, for there are able engineers in our Navy ; where the fault is we cannot tell, we can only direct attention to it, hoping that we may do " the State some service.”
This article was originally published with the title "History of Our Steam Navy"