John Adams Frig
(Fr: t. 544; 1. 139' (b.p.); b. 32'; dph. 16'4"; cpl. 220, a.
24 12-pars., 6 24-pdrs.)
The first John Adams was built for the United States by the people of Charleston, S.C., under contract to Paul Prichard and launched in the latter's shipyard some 3 miles from Charleston 5 June 1790. The new frigate, Captain George Cross in command, sailed on or about 1 October for Cayenne, French Guiana, to operate against French privateers based at that port. Before she arrived Cayenne, the British had captured Surinam making the French base in Guiana unsafe for privateers and prompting Captain Cross to sail on to Guadeloupe to join her squadron.
Early in January 1800, she began her effective operations against the French taking an unidentified lugger off San Juan, P.R., and recapturing brig Dolphin. She retook brigs Cannibal 22 Marchand Atlantic the next day, both prizes of French privateer Le President Tout. French privateer schooner La Jason surrendered to her 3 April and in May she retook schooners Dispatch and William. Sometime in the late spring or summer she recaptured American brig Olive, and on 13 June she took French schooner Decade.
These victories punctuated and highlighted the invaluable, but less glamorous, day-to-day duty of patrolling the West Indies and protecting American shipping continued through the late summer and fall.
John Adams was dispatched to the United States 5 December escorting a convoy. She was placed in ordinary in Charleston in mid-January 1801, and in late Junc she sailed to Washington where she was laid up. The remarkable sueeess of the frigate was representative of the new Navy which her namesake, Presitlent John Adams, had called into being to protect the growing and vital commerce of the young nation.
As the "quasi-war" with France drew to a close, President Adams could report on the Navy to Congress with pride: "The present Navy of the United States, ealled .suddenly into existence by a great national emergency, has raised us in our own esteem; and by the protection afforded to our eommeree has effceted to the extent of our expectations the objects for which it was created."
Peace with France freed the Navy for operations against Barbary corsairs who had been preying on American shipping in the Mediterranean. A small squadron under Commodore Dale, sent out in 1801 for operations against Tripoli, was followed in 1802 by a much stronger force under Commodore Richard V. Morris. John Adams commanded by Captain John Rodgers, sailed from Hampton Roads 22 October to join Commodore Morris. After escort duty from Gibraltar to Malaga and Minorea, she finally caught up with Commodore Morris at Malta 5 January 1803. She operated with the squadron until 3 May when she received orders to cruise independently off Tripoli. Upon arriving off Tripoli, John Adam$ boldly attacked the forts and the gunboats anchored under their protection. Several days later she captured 20-gun Tripolitan eruiser Meshouda. Reinforeed by New York, and Enterprise, she engaged a flotilla of enemy gunboats off Tripoli 22 May sending them scurrying back into the harbor to safety. Five days later—with the added support of Adams, a sister frigate also named for President John Adams—the squadron again bested a group of pirate gunboats.
One of the most important victories of the war came 21 June when John Adam.' and Enterprse captured a 22-gun vessel belonging to Tripoli thus weakening that state sufficiently to allow the squadron to turn its attention to Tunis, Algiers, and Moroceo, which were threatening U.S. commerce in the We~tern Mediterranenn. Throughout the summer and early fall John Adams operated in that quarter before returning home with New York.
Meanwhile, Commodore Edward Preble, who had led a powerful fleet to the Mediterranean, vigorously pressed the fight. In August and September 1804 he made a series of major attucks on Tripoli. As the second of these blows was being delivered 7 August, John Adams, now under Captain Isaac Chauncey, arrived on the scene deeply laden with stores. Her boats participated in a reconnaissance patrol on the night of 18 August, and 6 days later she slipped in close to the eity for an intensive 4-hour bombardment. Two nights later during a similar attack, an enemy shot sank one of John Adams' boats, killing three men and wounding a fourth, as the American Squadron severely punished Tripoli with over 700 well direeted rounds which took effcet within the city. After a fifth attack had been sueeessfully completed 3 September, bad weather interrupted operations and John Adams sailed to Syracuse with other ships of the squadron.
Three months later she sailed for New York with Commodore Preble, arriving 26 February 1805. After a third Mediterranean eruise from May to November, she was laid up in ordinary.
The outbreak of the War of 1812 found her undergoing repairs at Boston whence she was hurried to New York to have the work completed. There the British blockade and a critical shortage of seamen kept her in a laid-up status until early 1814. She finally sailed under a flag of truce carrying peace commissioners Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell to Europe and arrived Wargo Island, Norway, 14 April. She rehlrned to the United States 5 September bringing dispatches from the American commissioners at Ghent.
Meanwhile, the Barbary pirates, taking advantage of the American Navy's preocoupation with the British fleet during the War of 1812, had resumed operations against Amerionn merchantmen in the Mediterranean. Fortunately the treaty of peace signed on Christmas Eve 1814 freed United States men-of-war for renewed attention to this chronic trouble spot. In the autumn of 1815 . John Adams arrived in the Mediterrranean to assist frigntes United States and Constellation amd sloops Eirie and Ontario in maintaining peace and order in the area after strong squadrons under Commodores Decatur and Bainbridge had induced the Barbary princes to honor their treaty commitments. Early in 1816 she returned home with dispatches.
Pirates were also active in the West Indies at this time. Taking advantage of the chaos attendant upon the dis solution of Spain's American empire, lawless vessels from many nations preyed on neutral as well as Spanish commeree in the Caribbean, the Gulf of 3Iexico, and along the storied Spanish Main. For the next few years John Adams was busy fighting bueeaneers. On 22 December 1817 she demanded and received the surrender of Amelia Island, off the east coast of Florida, the base from which corsairs of Commodore Aury pounced upon merchantmen of all nations.
Diplomacy also had an important role in this struggle to make the sea safe for American shipping. In the spring of 1819 Seeretary of the Navy Smith Thompson selected Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry for the delicate mission of establishing friendly relations with the government of newly independent Venezuela and negotiating to obtain restitution for United States vessels which had been illegally captured during the revolution under the guise of patriotism. Perry boarded his 'dagchip John Adams at Annapolis and sailed in company qith schooner Nonsuch 7 June. A month later he reached the mouth of the Orinoco, which he ascended to Angostura in Non.such while John Adamz sailed on to Trinidad to await his return at Port-of-Spain. After protracted negotiation, the government of Venezuela granted all the demands of the United States 11 August; but, during the paScage down the river, Perry was stricken with yellow fever and died before he returned to his flagchip. Commodore Charles Morris succeeded Perry in command of the squadron, and John Adams accompanied his 'dagship Constellation on a voyage to the Plata River to continue the negotiations inaugurated by Perry to establish friendl.v relations with the new Latin American republics and to protect American eommeree from South American privateers. After visiting Montevideo and Buenos Aires, both ships returned to the United States, arriving Hampton Roads 24 April 1820.
In spite of these successes, piracy remained rampant in the West Indies, and John Adams was part of a strong West India Squadron created in 1822 to eope with the problem. Biddle's ships labored with indefatigable zeal: but the task, entailing careful searches by small-boat expeditions of innumerable bays, lagoons, and inlets, seemed endless. Yellow fever took a much heavier toll than the enemy necessitating reinforcements which arrived 3 March1823 when Commodore Porter's "Mosquito Fleet" anchored off Saint Thomas. Porter, the squadron's new commander, selected John Adam.~ as his 'dagchip When Porter was recalled. his successor, Commodore Lewis NVarrington retained John Adams as his flagchip until 1826. From time to time, thereafter, the proud frigate returned to the West Indies for operations against pirates until 1829 when she was laid up and almost entirely rehuilt at the Navy Yard. Gosport, Va.
Completely reinvenated, she joined the Mediterranean Squadron in 1831. One of her first duties was to take her former commander, ax-Commodore Porter, to Con.stantinople where he became the TT.S.'s first charge d'affaires. The ship was granted the rare privile~e of passing through the Dardanelles w ith guns molTntetl. Thereafter. John Adam$ convoyed ships in the Mediterranean and in 1833 visited Liberia, being colonized with American Negroes.
After extensive repairs in the ITnited States, she sniled from Hampton Roads 6 Mav 1~38 on a ernice aronnd the world accompanied b.v Columbia. Particular ctreSS was placed unon showing the flag in the East Tndies where the United States en~oved a prosperous and growing trade. Both shins arrived Rio de Janeiro 10 Julv but departed separately, John Adams sailing 2~> July. She stopped at Zanz.ibar en route to Bombay, where she rejoined Columbia before pushing on to Gon kind Colombo. Ceylon.
At the latter port the ships learned that natives at Soo-Soo, Sumatra, had attacked American ship Eclipse. The squadron immediately sailed to the scene of the ineident, and bombarded the forts at Quallah Battoo to induce the Rajahs of Sumatra to agree to offer assistance and protection to American vessels. Before returning to Rio de Janeiro 23 April 1840, the squadron ealled at Singapore, Macao, Honolulu, Valparaiso, and Cape Horn.
John Adams finally arrived Boston about the middle of June where she was laid up until 1842. After duty on the Brazil station, she went into ordinary where she remained until recommissioned at the beginning of the Mexican War. She was anchored off the bar at Santiago 8 May 1846 during the Battle of Palo Alto and she maintained a blockading station off the east coast of Mexico for the remainder of the war.
John A dams returned to Boston in September 1848 and received extensive repairs before joining the Africa station for action with the English Navy against the slave trade. She returned from this difflcult duty in July 1853. Thereafter, with the exception of periods at home for repairs, John. Adams operated in the Pacific and the Far Eaqt until after the outbreak of the Civil War. She sailed for home from Siam 6 July 1861 and reached New York 11 January 1862, bringing a box containing two royal letters from the King of Siam to the President along with a sword and a pair of elephant tusks.
John Adams was sent to Newport, R.I., the wartime location of the Naval Academy, to act as training ship for midshipmen. In the summer of 1863 she joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and took station off Morris Island inside Charleston Bar, where she served as flagship of the inner blockade until she sailed into the harbor after the evacuation of Charleston in February 1865.
Late that summer she sailed to Boston where she decomissioned in September and was sold 5 October 1867.