(Gbt: dp. 840 1. 160'; b. 28', dr. 11'9"; s. 9 k.;
cpi. 12; a. 6 3-pdr., 4 l-pdr.)
The second Fern, a gunboat, was built in 1871 by Delamater and Steack of New York City at Newport, R.I., transferred to the Navy from the Treasury Department 30 January 1891; and commissioned 22 April 1891, Lieutenant Commander A. J. Iverson in command.
Fern sailed the east coast, carrying coal and general cargo to various bases, locating and destroying by gunfire wrecks of ships obstructing navigation, and assisting in the precommissioning trials of new ships, After 22 January 1898 she was based at Key West to carry mail and supplies to the increasing number of ships which concentrated in the Caribbean as war with Spain threatened. When war began in April Fern continued her runs from Key West to the squadron off Santiago and to Guantanamo Bay.
On 16 October 1898, Fern was transferred to the District of Columbia Naval Militia and decommissioned on 22 October. In 1904 and 1905 she was laid up at Norfolk, then repaired at Detroit for duty with the Minnesota Naval Militia. She was renamed Gopher on 27 December 1905.
With United States entry into the first World War, Gopher was assigned duty as a practice ship at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, and on 30 May 1917 was returned to commission. She trained members of the Naval Reserve at ports in the 9th Naval District, principally Chicago, until she was placed out of commission 19 April 1919.
Gopher was recommissioned on 16 May 1921 for service with the Naval Reserve at Toledo, Ohio. On 1 October 1922 she was placed in reduced commission, and on 6 August departed for Boston. While in passage she rammed and damaged a lock in the Soulanges Canal and was apprehended and held by the Canadian Government at Quebec. Upon her release she was taken in tow by Wandank, but on 21 September 1923 she sank during a Northwest gale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Gopher was later decommissioned as of the date of her sinking.