Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Accident to the Revenue Cutter "Gresham
Scientific American (New York), 10 Jul 1898
Full Text

ACCIDENT TO THE REVENUE CUTTER "GRESHAM." On April 26 the United States revenue cutter " Gresham " stopped at Ogdensburg, N. Y., on her way from the upper lakes to the scene of naval activity. The "Gresham" is 205 feet in length and draws about 12 feet of water. She was built in Cleveland and is very fast. This and other new cutters were transferred from the Treasury to the Navy Department at the beginning of hostilities.

The " Gresham " was unable to proceed on her journey on account of her length, which was greater than the locks of the St. Lawrence canals, just below Ogdensburg, and her draught was also greater than the depth of water in the canals. In order to make the journey to Montreal, where she was to be put together again, the boat had to be cut in two, and the draught of the two sections lessened by pontooning.

A section of the boat about 85 feet in length was cut from the rest of the boat, the parts were separated, and wooden bulkheads were built across the ends. Each pontoon was secured to the sides just forward of the propeller to lessen the draught of the stern sufficiently, and smaller pontoons were placed under the forward quarter to support and steady the boat section.

Before hauling the boat out upon the marine railway, the anchors, chains and other movable things were unloaded upon the deck to lighten the load, and about the first part of the third week in May the boat was replaced in the water and the work of reloading the anchors was about completed when, according to accounts of men of the crew and workmen in the shipyard, all of the heavy articles were loaded upon the upper deck, instead of upon the lighter, which could accompany the boat through the canals. Naturally. the load on the deck made the boat section top heavy, and on Tuesday, May 17, it was noticed to have quite a list to starboard.

This list increased rapidly, and was further aided by the breaking loose of a rapid-fire gun mounted in the boat, which was quickly followed by the capsizing of the boat section, which sank in about 35 feet of water between the piers of the dock. In turning over the gun was thrown out upon the dock, as was also one of the anchors. Fortunately, no one was killed and only one man was slightly injured.

Had the accident happened some 20 minutes before, the casualties would probably have been many, as some twenty-five men were at breakfast in the section of the vessel which sank, and it is likely that many of them could not have escaped in safety. The forward section which sank weighed about 85 tons, and some of the plates which projected from both sections were badly twisted, owing to the close proximity of the two sections of the boat.

The Ogdensburg Marine Railway had the contract for taking the boat to the canals, and they conducted the wrecking operations. An inspection was made since the forward section has been raised, and it disclosed the fact that many of the plates were bent and the vessel was leaking badly. The accident is generally accounted for on the theory that the pontoon on which the section rested was filled with Water. This is another theory in addition to the one already advanced. Preparations are in progress for taking the cutters "Algonquin " and "Onondaga," now building at Cleveland, through the canals. It is considered that the revenue cutters will not return to the lakes, owing to the fact that they cannot be gotten through the canals without cutting them again. It is probable new cutters will be built for the lakes.

Item Type
Date of Publication
10 Jul 1898
Corporate Name(s)
Ogdensburg Marine Railway
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 44.6932995215863 Longitude: -75.5061132448578
Copyright Statement
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Accident to the Revenue Cutter "Gresham