USS New Hampshire



USS New Hampshire A Victim Of Three Fires


By James Donahue


The USS New Hampshire was probably the last real "ship-of-the-line" operating in the U. S. Navy when it was destroyed by a fire in 1921.


That fire was one of three blazes that plagued the vessel and eventually brought it to complete ruin when yet a final blaze broke out on the old wooden ship while it was in tow in 1922. The first fire swept its decks in 1918.


The old warship was originally commissioned in 1818, exactly one hundred years earlier, after launched as a 74-gun ship-of-the-line under an original name, Alabama. President James Monroe was in attendance during the commissioning ceremony.


In spite of all the ceremony, work on the Alabama was not completed. The ship remained on the stocks at the Portsmouth Navy Yard for 29 years, until 1864, when the Civil War broke out. At that time, probably because the State of Alabama was part of the Confederacy, the ships was launched under a new name, the New Hampshire.


The old-styled warship, designed for service in an earlier era, was no longer a vital vessel for Naval battles during the Civil War. This was a time for iron hulled ships powered by steam engines and heavier cannon with exploding shot. Thus the New Hampshire was put to use as a service vessel. She served during the war as a hospital and supply ship off Port Royal, South Carolina, then was used as a receiving ship at Norfolk, Virginia, in 1866.


After that, the New Hampshire was at Newport, Rhode Island, as the flagship for the Apprentice Training Squadron. In 1893 she was loaned to the New York State Naval Militia as a training ship and armory. Nearly one thousand men trained on her decks and went on to serve during the Spanish American War.



The Navy launched a new battleship that would carry the name New Hampshire in 1904, so the name of the old ship was changed to Granite State. She was still serving as a training ship in 1918 when the first fire broke out in the forecastle. The blaze spread throughout the superstructure. The crew averted a disaster by flooding the ship's magazine to keep the ammunition from exploding.


The nation was at war at the time of the first fire so Granite State was rebuilt an she continued service as a training ship, still operating on the Hudson River. Then in May 23, 1921, another fire broke out and consumed the old ship. This time she sank at her pier.


The hull was sold for salvage the following year. The new owners, the Mulholland Machinery Corp., had the hull refloated. She was taken in tow by the tug Perth Amboy on the way to the Bay of Fundy for scrapping. Just five days out of New York, another fire broke out on the old ship. The two men stationed on the ship escaped even as the flames were sweeping the decks. The towline parted and the old warship became a fiery derelict adrift at sea.


It was said smoke from the burning ship could be seen for miles. People could see the fire from the U.S. coast but nobody knew what ship was burning. She burned fiercely all day, making it impossible for the Amboy to secure a new towline or even get close enough to fight the fire.


The wreck drifted aground at Graves Island where it burned to a total ruin. There it was left to the mercy of the elements.


For statistics, the Granite State was not a large vessel. She measured just 196 feet in length. She had three masts and was square-rigged. The ship never was powered.


Great And Lost Ships Of The World