USS Massachusetts (1845)

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Career (US) 100x35px
Laid down: date unknown
Launched: 1845
Acquired: 1 August 1849
Commissioned: 1 August 1849
Decommissioned: May 1859
In service: 17 June 1863
Out of service: February 1867
Struck: 1867 (est.)
Fate: sold, 15 May 1867
General characteristics
Displacement: 765 tons
Length: 178 ft (54 m)
Beam: 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m)
Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: steam engine
Speed: not known
Complement: not known
Armament: 4 guns
Armor: wood

USS Massachusetts (1845) was a steamer acquired by the U.S. Navy prior to the American Civil War. She was used by the U.S. War Department as a transport during the Mexican-American War and traveled widely, including transiting Cape Horn several times as part of her official duties on both sides of the Americas. During her years of service she spent most of her time on the west coast of North America.

Massachusetts, a wooden steamer, was built in the shipyard of Samuel Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, under the supervision of Edward H. Delano for Mr. R. B. Forbes in 1845. As an auxiliary steam packet, she helped pioneer commercial steamer service between New York City and Liverpool, England.

She was purchased by the War Department in 1847 and during the Mexican-American War served as a troop transport for the Army. In 1848 she steamed round Cape Horn to San Francisco, California; she was transferred to the Navy at Mare Island Navy Yard 1 August 1849; and commissioned the same day, Lt. L. R. Knox in command.

South America

Assigned to the Pacific Squadron, Massachusetts operated along the U.S. West Coast in a project for the selection of sites for lighthouses and buoys by the joint Navy and Army Commission. She departed San Francisco 12 August 1852; steamed via ports in Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil; and arrived Norfolk, Virginia, 17 March 1853. She decommissioned the following day.

Massachusetts recommissioned at Norfolk 2 May 1854, Lt. Richard W. Meade in command. After fitting out, she departed for the Pacific Ocean 5 July, reached the Straits of Magellan 13 December, and arrived Mare Island, California, 8 May 1855. During June and July she cruised the coast between San Francisco and the Columbia River; thence, she sailed for Central America 25 August. She showed the flag from Mexico to Nicaragua and returned to San Francisco 9 January 1856.

Puget Sound

Battle of Port Gamble

In October 1855, Massachusetts departed Mare Island 17 February 1856 with guns and ammunition for Seattle, Washington, where she arrived 24 February. She operated in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca for more than a year, visiting ports in Washington Territory and the British Crown Colony of Vancouver Island. The Massachusetts was sent from there to Port Gamble, Washington Territory on Puget Sound, where indigenous raiding parties from British and Russian territories who had been harassing local Native Americans. When the warriors refused to hand over those among them who had attacked the Puget Sound Native American communities, USS Massachusetts landed a shore party and a battle ensued in which 26 natives and 1 sailor were killed. In the aftermath of this, Colonel Isaac Ebey, the first settler on Whidbey Island, was shot and beheaded on August 11, 1857 by a raiding party in revenge for the killing of a native chief during similar raids the year before. British authorities demurred on pursuing or attacking the northern tribes as they passed northward through British waters off Victoria and Ebey's killers were never caught.[1]

She departed the Pacific Northwest 4 April 1857, reached Mare Island 9 April, and decommissioned there 17 June.

Army Service

On 5 January 1859 Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey ordered the Commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard to fit out Massachusetts prior to transfer to the War Department. She was turned over to the Army Quartermaster Corps in May 1859 and during the next few years cruised Puget Sound “for the protection of the inhabitants of that quarter”, which was going through rapid change and an influx of miners and settlers as a consequence of the Fraser Gold Rush and successive rushes just to the north in the Colony of British Columbia, and also as part of US military force assembled in the area during the period of confrontation with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines known as the Pig War, a bloodless though tense dispute over the boundary through the San Juan Islands.[2][3][4] The Quartermaster General of the Army ordered Massachusetts re-transferred to the Navy 27 January 1862. Subsequently, she was placed in ordinary at Mare Island and surveyed.

Renamed Farallones

Massachusetts underwent conversion to a storeship. Her engines were removed, and she was converted into a bark. Renamed Farallones in January 1863, she commissioned 17 June 1863, Acting Master C. C. Wells in command. She served ships of the Pacific Squadron as a storeship until February 1867 when she decommissioned at Mare Island. She was sold at San Francisco to Moore & Co., 15 May 1867.


  1. Beth Gibson, Beheaded Pioneer, Laura Arksey, Columbia, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, Spring, 1988.
  2. McGowan's War, Donald J. Hauka, New Star Books, Vancouver (2000) ISBN 1-55420-001-6
  3. British Columbia Chronicle,: Gold & colonists, Helen and G.P.V. Akrigg, Discovery Press, Vancouver (1977) ISBN 0-919624-03-0
  4. Claiming the Land, Dan Marshall, UBC Ph.D Thesis, 2002 (unpubl.)