Andrew Johnson (Steamboat), 22 May 1897
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Uncle Sam is going to auction the ANDY JOHNSON, says the Chicago Times herald. The advertisement sounds as gruesome as would the proffer to sell a graveyard or a lot of second-hand tombstones. It seems like sending to the poor-house some pioneer who has met with misfortune in old age. Without a hymn for her services or a lament for her decrepitude, the government invites bids for an old boat as a hulk or a thing to be fitted up for excursions or lumber hauling. The sale will take place on Memorial Day.
The JOHNSON was built at the close of the war - the civil war, not the rebellion, as most people might imagine from their remembrance of her turnip proportions. Secretary John Sherman, who was then in Congress, took great interest in the enforcement of the internal revenue laws along the lake shores. He insisted that much of the smuggling in the country was done through this channel and he urged the house to make a big appropriation for ships to watch the lake ports. He secured the passage for a bill for $1,000,000 for such boats. The department let the contract for four, and they were built at Cleveland and Buffalo. They were called the SHERMAN, the ANDY JOHNSON, the JOHN A. DIX and the FESSENDEN. The ANDY JOHNSON was built in Buffalo and all four went into commission in 1865.
It is probable that ease more than work killed them all, and they are scattered around the Great Lakes. They certainly never sailed themselves to pieces. The SHERMAN went first and was made into a lumber barge. The hull is now a wreck on the St. Clair River. The JOHN A. DIX is somewhere along the Chicago River, a white elephant in the shipping trade and used only semi-occasionally.
The ANDY JOHNSON has been seen by more seamen than any other boat that was ever launched on the lakes. She has been a familiar figure for thirty-two years, oftener lending a helping hand to stranded vessels than dealing out punishment. It was most of her duty in the old days of sailing boats to pull them from the sandbars - before the course became full of steamers and the sandbars were dug out by the authorities. Her armament was not ferocious, and the one time when she fired at the moonshiners in the Straits was the only time in which she appeared in battle array.
May 22, 1897
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- William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes