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This Month in Naval History


A small carnivorous mammal common throughout the world. Two United States Navy schooners were named for this animal.

Gustavus Vasa Fox, born 13 June 1821 at Saugus, Mass., was appointed midshipman 12 January 1838. During the Mexican War, he served in the brig Washington in the squadron of Commodore Perry and took active part in the second expedition against Tobasco 14-16 January 1847, which resulted in the capture of that town. He was in command of several mail steamers and after his resignation 30 July 1856, engaged in the manufacture of woolen materials.

At the start of the Civil- War he volunteered for service. He was given a temporary appointment in the Navy and was sent in the steamer Baltic to the relief of Major Robert Anderson and the remnant of his command in Fort Sumter, and brought them away. On 1 August 1861, President Lincoln appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy, an office which he held until the close of the Civil War. In 1866, he was sent on a special mission to Russia and conveyed the congratulations of the President of the United States to the Czar upon his escape from assassination. His voyage was made in the monitor Miantonomah which was the first vessel of this class to cross the Atlantic. He died 29 October 1883 at Lowell, Mass. Torpedo Boat No. 13 and DD-234 were named for Gustavus Fox.

Printed sources list a schooner Fox as a naval vessel in the period 1817-21, but no information concerning such a ship is contained in the official manuscript records.

(Sch: t. 51; cgl. 31; a. 3 guns)

The first Fox, a schooner, was purchased 20 December 1822 at Baltimore, Md.; outfitted at Norfolk; and was commissioned early in 1823, Lieutenant W. H. Cocke in command.

Assigned to Captain D. Porter's "Mosquito Fleet," a group of small ships whose mission was the suppression of piracy in the West Indies, Fox sailed from Hampton Roads 14 February 1823 with her squadron. Sent into San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 6 March to inquire about another ship of the squadron earlier sent in to acquaint the Spanish Governor with Porter's mission, Fox was fired upon, and her commanding officer killed. All demands for an explanation brought only expressions of regret, but no satisfactory reasons for the unwarranted act of belligerence.

In April 1823, Fox, with another schooner and two barges, made a highly successful expedition against buccaneers operating on the coast of Cuba. A schooner, a sloop, and a felucca were captured, and a pirate settlement ashore put to the torch. Fox continued to serve in the West Indies, based on Key West, for the following 3 years. As well as protecting American commerce, she carried specie between Havana, Tampico, and New Orleans, and north Washington when she sailed for her repair periods. Returning to Norfolk 19 July 1826, Fox was immediately ordered to Baltimore, where she served as receiving ship until sold 8 December 1837.


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