LAUNCH OF THE U.S. STEAM SLOOP OF WAR "MICHIGAN."
(Correspondence of the Buffalo Daily Gazette, Erie, Pa., Dec. 6, 1843.)
Gents: The long expected and long waited for launch is over, and before the excitement which it has caused subsides, I will write you a few ;lines in relation to it. The vessel was ready to launch a week or ten days since, but there was not enough depth of water opposite the spot where she was on the stocks, to let her off without danger of grounding, and they were obliged to wait for a west wind to raise it. All have been on the tiptoe of expectation and anxiety, to witness the great event; it has been the principle topic of conversation in every circle here for the last week. Never was a west wind more heartily prayed for. The weathercock has been watched with an assiduity really astonishing - all the almanacs from the year 1 down to the present time, were searched with much diligence, to see, by comparison, what kind of weather we might "expect about these days," and all came to the conclusion that such a period of calm weather at this season of the year, was "unknown to the oldest inhabitants."
It was announced on Thursday, that the launch would probably take place on Friday, and that notice would be given by firing guns and the ringing of bells. Some wags, however, thought to have some sport, and by a preconcerted plan, the guns were fired and the bells rung by them, on Friday. They also gave out invitations, as from the commander, to several citizens, requesting their attendance. The plan was so well laid and carried out, that nearly all believed the notice to be genuine. Fearing that the "water might fall," or "she might go off," a general rush was made for the navy yard, "to see what was to be seen." Young men and maidens, grey headed men, old women and children, and "gentlemen from the country," quickened their steps towards the water, and each strove to be there before his neighbor. The banks of the bay were soon lined with spectators, and it was not until the workmen on the vessel looked up and inquired why such a crowd appeared, that the hoaxed assembly discovered the trick, and faced about for home, sadly disappointed.
On Monday morning, a slight breeze sprung up from the south, but it soon hauled round to the west, and at noon, a stiff northwester "gave evidence of its presence." At 2 o'clock, the water was sufficiently high to launch, which was officially announced by the firing of guns and ringing of bells. The banks of Presque Isle Bay were again crowded by spectators, a goodly number of whom were ladies, although a disagreeable, drizzling rain fell during the whole afternoon. At 4 o'clock, a gun from the Revenue cutter gave the signal to "let her go." The blocks and shoars were knocked away, but the vessel did not move. After spending an hour in endeavoring to get her off, it was found that the "slush" between the ways and the bilge ways had became so hardened by the cold as to be of no service whatever. It being dark, the boat was "made fast," and operations were suspended until Tuesday. Here was another disappointment, but it was unavoidable.
On Tuesday, preparations were made to ensure success at the first trial, which was successful. There were a few persons present, owing to the short notice given. A gun from the cutter at 3 o'clock gave the signal to let go, and in an instant, the great fabric started. At first she moved slowly, but in a moment glided off most beautifully. Above the noise and confusion of the crowd was faintly heard from the lips of the person who broke the bottle of pure cold water over her bows - "God Bless the United States Sloop of War MICHIGAN." As she proudly kissed the element upon which she is destined to float, all present gave three hearty cheers for her, and " three times three" for the American flag. Everything passed off with perfect satisfaction, and nothing occurred to which we might recur with unpleasant feelings on the day on which the United States Sloop of War MICHIGAN first graced the waters of Lake Erie. The dimensions and properties of the vessel are accurately as follows:
Length of keel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156 feet 4 inches
Length on deck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167 feet 6 inches
Length overall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 feet 6 inches
Breadth of beam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 feet
Breadth over guards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 feet 10 inches
Depth of hold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 feet
Height from top of keel to top of rail . . . . . . 17 feet 10 inches
Diameter of wheel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 feet
Burthen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600 tons.
The hull, wheel-house and guards are entirely of iron, with the exception of the gun deck. There are four water tight bulkheads athwart ship to secure the ship against sinking - four keelsons for the frames of the engine to rest upon, and one main keelson, seventeen inches in depth. The planking is of different thicknesses; the bottom is 3/8 inch thick, and the keel 5/8 inch. Although pierced for 16 guns, her present armament will consist of two 64 Paixham guns on pivots, and four 32 pound carronades. She will be schooner rigged, and have three masts. She has two low pressure inclined engines, each of 85 horse power. The cylinders are 36 inches in diameter, and 8 feet stroke. Her boilers are 10 by nineteen feet, and the shaft of wrought iron. The lower standing rigging will be of iron. She will carry six anchors, four of them weighing 3500 lbs. each, and two 500 lbs. kedges. Either wood or coal can be used for fuel, although the latter will be principally used. She makes a beautiful appearance in the water, and sits as steadily and as portly as a swan. She now draws on even keel, 3 feet 6 inches, and with her armament and stores ready for sea, will draw 7 feet 8 inches, which will enable her to enter almost any harbor on the lakes. It is designed to have her ready for service by the opening of navigation next spring, and she will, no doubt be one of the first boats out. It is believed that she will prove a superior sea boat, and surpass in speed any craft that floats the western waters.
Commander Wm. Inman has been appointed to her command. He is a gentleman of much experience, and superior ability, in his profession, having been engaged in the U. S. Navy since the year 1811. He is a very kind, polite and agreeable in his manners; and during his residence here, has been favorable received by our citizens. The second in command is Lieut. J.P. McKinstry, U. S. N., of whom I know but little. It is said that he commanded a vessel or steamboat on the lakes, a number of years since, and is well acquainted with the lake navigation.
The vessel was made and put together under the superintendence of S. Hart, Esq., Naval Constructor. His beautiful model, and superior arrangements, reflect much credit upon the architect, and shows his skill and ability in the construction of vessels. She was built under contract, by Stackhouse & Tomlinson, of Pittsburg; who are prepared to build iron vessels of every capacity. The material and construction of this boat are far superior to those made at New York; she gives such satisfaction that they have received the contract for building two other government steamers.
The necessity of a vessel upon our lakes, under the auspices of the navy, has long been felt; and it must be a source of much gratification to those who have labored so long to secure it. Her appearance will be hailed with pleasure from one end of this mighty chain of lakes to the other. It is the first U. S. Naval vessel, that has floated on our waters since the time of the lamented Perry's fleet. Heretofore, Great Britain has been foremost in providing means of defence upon the lakes as well as the ocean. For a number of years she has had two vessels of war upon the lakes; and at present has three efficient ones. Providently, our government foresees the necessity for an armament; and will, by the opening of navigation, next spring, have three iron steam vessel's of war, superior, in all respects, to those of the British. The selection of a place for a naval depot, is a matter of no little consequence, and of which our citizens are justly proud. It was the spot chosen by Perry, to build his fleet, and by his recommended as the most fit place upon the lakes, for the establishment of a naval depot.
Twenty years ago, it would have been called madness to have proposed to build a steamer of iron, and to propel her upon any other principle than the old-fashioned paddle wheel; and ten years since, it would have been deemed the height of folly, to attempt a similar construction. But a new era has dawned upon us, not only in steam navigation and naval construction, but in everything else pertaining to the advancement of knowledge and of science.
The lake commerce, which has been so much overlooked by government, is now assuming an importance, to which it cannot be blind. By past experience, we know the necessity of preparation, and are fully admonished of the truth and importance of the great principle adopted, and which should be carried out by every civilized nation upon the face of the earth - that "in time of peace, we should prepare for war." In haste,
Buffalo Daily Gazette
December 8, 1843