For Jamzmom


10-Year Member
Jun 9, 2006
The U.S. Navy puts the name "North Carolina" on the big boys, such as a battleship and now on a giant 21st century submarine.

Fayetteville’s favorite Navy son, James C. Dobbin, gave his name to more humble vessels. Dobbin was secretary of the Navy from 1853 until 1857 in the cabinet of President Franklin Pierce. He went to the job from Fayetteville, where, as a lawyer-politician, he was a leading sachem of the Democratic Party. Never a sailor himself, history nonetheless gives him high marks for "modernizing" the fleet of his generation. He died soon after returning from Washington in the spring of 1857.

I have already written about the destroyer tender USS Dobbin and its heroic role at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese air raid of Dec. 7, 1941, got us into World War II.

There was also another USS Dobbin even earlier.

The vessel was a handsome 94-foot "topsail schooner," a swift sailing ship commissioned during the first months of Dobbin’s tenure. This USS Dobbin was one of six of the same design commissioned in 1853 for the U.S. Revenue Service.

Almost as old as the Navy, the Revenue Service was the maritime arm of the Treasury Department, which enforced 19th-century laws on tariffs, smuggling and piracy. In a day when much of the government’s revenue came from customs duties on waterborne commerce, watchdog ships of the Revenue Service were a ubiquitous presence in ports and shipping lanes.

The 1853 vessels were named for six members of the presidential cabinet: Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Postmaster General James Campbell, Attorney General Caleb Cushing, Interior Secretary Robert McClelland, Secretary of State William Marcy and Dobbin.

They were built on the famous sailing-ship coast of Massachusetts, at Somerset, close to where the first vessel classed as a schooner was laid down in the early 18th century.

The slim, two-mast vessels were built for speed. With their huge mainsail and 22-foot beam, they were smaller visual cousins of the great, full-rigged "clipper" ships of the era and an ancestor of the early America’s Cup ocean-going racing yachts.

With a sailing crew of 13, the 174-ton schooners carried a single deck gun firing a 32-pound shot or ball. The officers of the Revenue Service were not, strictly speaking, in the U.S. Navy. The captain of the Dobbin was styled "Revenue Captain" John Webster.

The Dobbin’s enduring place in maritime history came after the Civil War, when she was assigned as the training ship for Revenue Service cadets, welcoming the first class of nine young men to Revenue Cutter School of Instruction at New Bedford, Conn., in 1877.

The school was the precursor of the Coast Guard Academy after the Revenue Service and other coastal services were united into the new Coast Guard in 1915. The Coast Guard honors the Dobbin as the mother ship of the Coast Guard Academy.

In the years before the Civil War, the new revenue cutter was stationed at Wilmington in the home state of the secretary of the Navy for whom she was named.

In 1856, she proceeded to Savannah, Ga. She was on station there in January of 1861 when a "secessionist mob" boarded her. The officers and crew were put in irons.

But then, in one of the most astonishing turnarounds of the early days of the Civil War, Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown ordered the ship’s release after he received a formal protest from the federal collector of customs at Savannah, John Boston.

The governor even apologized to the federal government "with regrets for the illegal action" of the local vigilantes.

Dobbin was towed to sea and set sail for Baltimore, the only Revenue cutter stationed in the South to continue flying the Stars and Stripes.

The vessel was refitted with a larger gun and sent to the New England coast to guard against Confederate raiders.

She remained stationed in Portland from 1863 until 1876, when she was signed as the school ship for the new school of instruction.

After two years as the school ship, she returned to the cutter fleet until decommissioned in 1881 and sold to a Baltimore firm for $5,166. She became a merchant vessel named John L.


The sister ships of Dobbin’s class had exotically varied careers.

The Marcy and the Davis were on the West Coast when the Civil War began and stayed there.

The McClelland was at New Orleans when the war began and was captured by Louisiana authorities. Her captain flipped from federal to Confederate.

As a Confederate warship named Pickets, she disappears from history.

The Cushing was peacefully at anchor at Portland, Maine, in summer 1863 when a Confederate raider swept into the Yankee harbor and put out a boarding party to seize the ship, which then was burned by the raiders.

The story of the Campbell was the most colorful. After the war, she was decommissioned and fitted out as a whaling ship named the Pedro Varela.

Her crew mutinied in 1910 in one of the more notorious 20th century maritime events. And then she was lost at sea in 1916.

She thus was the longest-lasting of the classy little vessels that set sail for the first time in the summer of 1853.
WOW. Where do you find this good stuff? Thats amazing really. I can imagine how beautiful this ship was. And sleek! Probably out ran anything of it's day. Love the part where the rebels set her on fire. :biggrin: (Teasing you Yankee) What a colorful past. Thanks for sharing that. Its the best thing I've read all day!