USS Guard (1857)

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Union Navy Jack United States
Ordered: as National Guard
Laid down: date unknown
Launched: 1857 in Portland, Connecticut
Acquired: 6 July 1861
Commissioned: 23 December 1862
Decommissioned: 10 November 1865
In service: 13 March 1866
Out of service: 15 December 1878
Struck: 1883 (est.)
Fate: sold, 27 September 1883
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,846 tons
Length: 160'
Beam: 38'
Draught: 20' 7'
Propulsion: steam engine
Speed: not known
Complement: 95

USS Guard (1857) was a large steamship with powerful 8-inch rifled guns, acquired by the Union Navy during the American Civil War.

She was placed into service as a storeship and assigned to support the ships blockading the ports of the Confederate States of America. Post-war she was recommissioned several times for various tasks including supporting the American fleet stationed in Europe with supplies and participating in the Darien expedition.

Constructed in Connecticut in 1857[edit]

National Guard was built by the S. Gildersleeve & Sons shipyard, Portland, Connecticut, in 1857; purchased 6 July 1861 by the Union Navy, and commissioned 23 December 1862, Acting Master William Lee Hays in command.

Service during the Civil War as the USS National Guard[edit]

From commissioning until she decommissioned in 1865, National Guard served as supply ship for the West India Squadron based at Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. A routine trip to Key West, Florida, for supplies in June 1865 turned into a voyage to Boston, Massachusetts, for quarantine and decommissioning when yellow fever broke out among the crew, leaving National Guard with a sick list of over twenty.

Recommissioned in 1865 and renamed as Guard in 1866[edit]

Decommissioned at Boston, Massachusetts, 10 November 1865, Guard recommissioned 13 March 1866, Acting Master Lewis A. Brown in command. She was renamed as Guard on 2 June 1866.

Serving as supply ship to the American fleet in Europe[edit]

After a trip to Norfolk, Virginia, for supplies and minor repairs, she sailed for Cadiz, Spain, arriving there 16 August. For the next 3 years Guard served as supply ship for the European Fleet, carrying supplies and occasional passengers to such diverse ports as Lisbon, Portugal; Cartagena, Spain; Majorca, Spain; Palermo, Italy; Gibraltar, Naples, Italy; Madeira, Spain; and Villa Franca, France.

During this period she also made three voyages to New York City, carrying passengers and some invalids for hospitals there and returning with fresh supplies. Guard returned to New York City 12 October 1869 and decommissioned 5 November.

Recommissioned for the Darien Expedition in 1870[edit]

Guard recommissioned 17 January 1870, Lt. Comdr. Edward P. Lull in command, to take part in the Darien Expedition; she sailed from New York City 28 January, arriving in Caledonia Bay, off the Isthmus of Darien, 18 February.

Exploring the potential for a canal being dug at Panama[edit]

In company with Nipsic and Nyack, under the overall command of Comdr. Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr., Guard conducted hydrographic surveys to determine what route, if any, would be best for a ship canal across the isthmus. The five routes explored during the 2 years she was on this special duty all proved impractical at the time, and the dream of an inter-ocean canal went unfulfilled until the completion of the Panama Canal two generations later.

Guard's duty in Central America was interrupted 12 August 1870 – 3 October 1870 when she sailed from New York City to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia with supplies. Leaving the Darien Expedition in June 1870, Guard returned to New York City 22 July and decommissioned there 3 August.

Recommissioned to carry exhibits to the Vienna Exposition of 1873[edit]

On 1 February 1873, Guard again recommissioned, Comdr. Charles A. Babcock commanding, and sailed from New York City 22 March with goods, exhibits, and construction materiel for the Vienna Exposition of 1873.

She arrived at Trieste, then a part of Austro-Hungary, via Gibraltar and Brindisi 3 May. After discharging her cargo for the exposition, Guard remained there undergoing minor repairs. Many of the articles not disposed of at the exposition were then reloaded, as well as some European goods intended for the American Centennial Exposition in 1876, and Guard sailed for New York City 31 December 1873, arriving there 14 April 1874 via Messina, Sicily, and Gibraltar. She decommissioned 27 April and remained laid up in ordinary until 1877.

Recommissioned for survey work in 1877[edit]

Guard's final tour of duty began 18 August 1877 as she recommissioned at New York City, Lt. Comdr. F. M. Green commanding. Her mission was to determine by means of the submarine communications cable the longitudes between Lisbon, Madeira, the Cape de Verde Islands, Pernambuco, and Buenos Aires.

Sailing from New York 29 October, she reached Lisbon 30 November and remained there until 3 February 1878, when she sailed to Madeira and from there to the Cape de Verde Islands. Her next stop was Porto Grande, St. Vincente, where she delivered a shipment of astronomical equipment for the observatory there before sailing for Rio de Janeiro 20 April.

Arriving there 1 June, Guard conducted further astronomical surveys of the Brazilian coast until, her work completed, she sailed for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, arriving there via Norfolk, Virginia, 4 December.

Final decommissioning and disposal by sale[edit]

She decommissioned 15 December 1878 and was laid up in ordinary until 27 September 1883, when she was sold to C. A. Williams & Co. of New London, Connecticut.

See also[edit]


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.